Recent reports on teen sexuality and sex education

A month is too long to go without a post, but to be honest during these past couple of weeks I have been thinking less about teens, sex, and the internet and more generally about how young people use the internet to learn, grow, and develop. These thoughts are occupying me as I try to think about how we can best support youth and young adults to become leaders and can the internet help in that goal?

Meanwhile, the latest news on the sexual health of our youth is not good. A recent report published by the Guttmacher Institute states that between 2003-2007, teen contraceptive use declined by 10%, even though rates of sexual activity remained stable. Not surprisingly, the teen birth rate increased 5% between 2005-2007. The authors of the report posit that abstinence-until-marriage sexuality education may deserve part of the blame.

And speaking of sex education, a report out of Canada notes that the sex education there does not match the wants of the teens who receive it. According to the wonderful Cory Silverberg, sex educator extraordinaire, teens reported learning about:

  2. STIs
  3. Pregnancy/birth control.

But they WANTED to hear about:

  1. Healthy relationships
  3. Sexual pleasure

These findings support what I have been witnessing for a long time now — so-called “comprehensive” sex education is anything but. Sex should not be taught outside of the context of relationship.

I hope to be back writing and pondering how technology fits into all of this soon!

Sexting = Spin the Bottle?

I have a feeling this is going to be all over the news (or maybe just in my head it will be) — according to UPI, Dr. Peter Cumming, an associate professor at York University, references sexting as a modern day spin the bottle or strip poker.

While I appreciate Dr. Cumming’s attempts to normalize the behavior of sexting and place it in developmental context (goodness knows I have tried to do so, too), I think it would be more accurate to say that sexting is like playing spin the bottle or strip poker in front of several cameras. Or maybe even the whole school. Including the cafeteria workers. Because, you never know who is going to get those pictures, do you?

Also, with spin the bottle and strip poker, more than one person is involved. Therefore when young people were getting caught in those cases, they were not alone. In the sexting incidents I am aware of, many involve one young person whose compromising image was sent to his/her (usually her) peers en masse. Big difference to have some friends with you while going through the humiliation, shame — and potential trouble with the law. Quite another to be the only one.

Actually, I think letting young people tell us the differences and similarities between strip poker and sexting would be very interesting. Could open up a great dialogue about the pros and cons of certain types of sexual experimentation.

Yet while I criticize Cumming’s words, I do appreciate this sentiment from him: “What I would say to anyone is to take a deep breath, think in context, and use common sense.”

Peer Education

I am a huge fan of peer-to-peer education, so loved seeing this article about how teens are being trained to talk about the dangers of the internet. OK, so I wasn’t thrilled about the “danger” framework, but I think the best way to teach internet safety is by having young people do the talking! Thoughts?

Internet and Health

A new way to think about how the internet impacts teen health by Red Orbit:

“Teens that text, drink too much caffeine, play games and surf the internet all night are experiencing difficulty staying alert and functioning the next day.”

Although caffeine seems to be the real culprit here, it is interesting to see how the internet not only impacts relationships, school work, and everything else we can think of it also alters/challenges our ways of dealing with time!