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Teens aren't logging on for sex ed answers
January 7th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

Teens aren't logging on for sex ed answers

The internet may be overflowing with information on every topic under the sun, but it's not your teen's destination of choice for information on sex.  In fact, according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, teens are more likely to get information about contraception or abstinence from their parents, friends, or teachers, before they surf the Web.

The researchers interviewed 58 juniors and seniors from three different public high schools, two in New York City and one in Indiana. Only five of the teens considered the internet to be "one of their most trusted sources" when it came to questions about sexual education, according to the study.

"Our expectation was that teens were using the internet to obtain sexual health information," explained Rachel K. Jones, the study's lead author and a senior research associate with the Guttmacher Institute.

Yet Jones' findings showed the opposite; the teens that she and her team interviewed were almost all averse to logging on for answers because they felt much of the information online couldn't be trusted.

"[They had] this heightened awareness that anyone can make a website and put information out there," said Jones.

"After we listened to what they had to say, it made sense."

The study focused specifically on teens seeking information about contraception and abstinence in keeping with the Guttmacher Institute's record of compiling data related to teen pregnancy. However, over the course of the study interviews, teens also shared whether they sought information for various STDs, pregnancy, abortion, and reproductive cancers, among other topics, while they were online. For these topics, too, the internet was not deemed to be a trustworthy source.

"We can't assume that if we build these great websites, teens will find them," said Jones. "We need to do more work to put the information and the websites in to the hands of the adolescents so they know where they are and know they can be trusted."

The study will appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Health Communications.


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