There is no denying it … The Internet can be a great source for finding all types of information relating to any topic. However, when it comes to young people and the thought of them accessing anything to do with sex, personal relationships and sexual health information we squirm at the different types of information they can access (see my publication). Why wouldn't we? They are looking for information because they don’t know something and for all we can try and safeguard young people we can’t always stop them from accessing sexual explicit material totally. However, we can move forward and provide them with the information they need and I suppose now we have to briefly ask the questions … WHY and WHAT are they searching for?
The WHY’S …
After recently conducting research with 12-16 year olds I found that young people are accessing pornographic websites due to the curiosity surrounding sex. One 12 year old girl said, “You don’t really learn anything about relationships and feelings, but it helps you try and suss out what all the hype is about sex – everyone is talking about it and I just want to be told more than what we get told at school.” The research also found that the main reason young people use websites is to try and get their questions answered based on what they are experiencing at the time and to seek help and advice. However, what is it that they are actually searching for?
The WHAT’S …
It is evident that young people are searching for information that adds to their knowledge and gives them the information they need based on their individual situation. The research found that young people want to use websites that are straight to the point and give the specific answers and advice to their questions and queries. They don’t want to be preached to and told what they should and shouldn't do, but instead to be treated with respect and given the correct information that satisfies their needs and give them the answers they are looking for. One young person from the research said “When do people ever ask us what information we need about sex? Adults don’t always give us the answers that we want, so we go and try to find it ourselves”. Talk about what comes from the horse’s mouth!
Moving FORWARD …
From the research I have deciphered that more research needs to be conducted so we can listen to the wishes of you people, but in the meantime we need to possibly address three main issues that relate to young peoples needs. These being to address:
- The quality of online sexual health information;
- How young people access the Internet to have their sexual health questions answered, and;
- The ability for young people to sift through the colossal number of sources for accurate information.
We have tried everything to prevent young people from accessing dodgy sexual information online, but if we placed as much effort on listening to them and providing them with the information they need, pornographic material may not be the first port of call for them to learn about sex, relationships and sexual health information online.
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