Thursday, January 13, 2011

Teens view sex information with a critical eye

A new report from Guttmacher staff (summarized here) finds that teens do not consider the internet to be a main source of sexual health information. However, I do want to point out that the sample only consisted of 58 youth, some of whom came from New York, where arguably the access to information from other venues (health clinics, sex ed classrooms, community centers) may be higher than in more remote areas.

Nevertheless, the fact seems to remain that teens prefer more personal sources for information about sex. These include family members (voted number one again as has been found in previous research), school, medical professionals, and friends. While I commend youth for reaching out to more human resources, this fact does concern me because both in the literature and in the community, I have found time and again that the adults mentioned in this previous list are extremely hesitant to talk about sex -- which leaves youth to rely on each other for information. Many parents, doctors, teachers, and other trusted adults express discomfort at the very idea of having "the talk" with youth in their care (note: the idea of "the talk" is not really accurate, as a sex conversation is hardly a one-time thing, but more of a process over many years!).

How can we best reach adults and support them so that they are more comfortable to talk about sex? What resources do they need? I don't fault adults for not starting conversations -- many of them were raised in ignorance and didn't have role models of adults whom spoke openly with them. Adults can't simply start talking about something without guidance -- especially something so value-ridden and complicated as sexual relationships and health.

So the question becomes -- who teaches the teachers? Maybe there are some good online resources...

Actually, there are a few places that have some good basic tips:
Mayo Clinic
Families Are Talking
Children Now

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