Teens Are More Internet Savvy When It Comes To Sex Than We Thought

I’ve heard a lot of people say that teenagers are getting all kinds of bad sex information from the internet. And I know that some of that it true, since I’ve spoken with a lot of people who have done exactly that. But there’s some indication that it’s not as bad as it might seem.

Is the Internet Filling the Sexual Health Information Gap for Teens? An Exploratory Study is a new bit of research from the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers interviewed 58 teens at 3 public high schools in New York. And while most of them used the internet daily, few saw it as a primary source of information about contraception or abstinence. In fact,

 

Most of the teens interviewed were wary of sexual health information on the Internet. The teens indicated a distrust of online information because it is often user-generated and could therefore be incorrect. They also noted that they would probably have to sort through an abundance of sexually explicit material to find the factual information they were looking for. Teens were most likely to trust family members (usually parents) for sexual health information; their next most trusted sources were educators, medical professionals and friends.

Granted, this was a small sample population, so it might not be representative of teens in general. And given how many parents, teachers, medical professionals and peers will have incorrect, biased, or misleading information, this doesn’t necessarily mean that young people are getting the support they need. But at least it’s good to know (IMO) that they’re aware of the limits of most of the sex information online.

Of course, there is some excellent information about sex on the internet. Scarleteen, Go Ask Alice, and the Coalition for Positive Sexuality are some good places to start. They’re all sex-positive, have plenty of accurate info, and use language that empowers young people to make the decisions that will be best for them. So if you have a teen in your life, you can send them to these sites and be confident that they’ll help them out.

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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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