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How the Internet is Changing Sexual Health Education Access

More and more youth are seeking out information about their health online.

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Source: Pixabay

Despite many of our commonly held perceptions, lesbian, gay, bisexual and other sexual minority (LGB+) teen girls are 2-4 times more likely to be pregnant as an adolescent than their non-LGB+ female peers [1]. Addressing gaps in knowledge about how to prevent pregnancy and access to health services are essential first steps in improving sexual health for LGB+ teens, especially because their questions are not often addressed in traditional sexual education programs. [2] This includes basic information, such as how to reduce your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you are having sex with another girl.

More and more youth are seeking out information about their health online, including sexual health information [3], because it is a way to access credible information privately [4]. Online- and technology-based sexual health education programs may be especially salient for LGB+ girls because girls can engage with the content when and where it is safe for them to do so. And technology programs can be more engaging that in-person programs because they can ‘gamify’ the experience and include other interactive features [6].

Here are some of our favorite resources:

1. IMPACT

IMPACT is dedicated to improving the lives and health of LGBT+ people. They have a specific page on their website where they share relevant sexual health education information including a youth blog page that breaks down many of the topics teens may be curious about.

2. One Love

One Love has created a list entitled 7 Thing They Should’ve Taught You In Sex-Ed But Didn’t. This list goes into the myths and facts about sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual health.

3. Sex Etc.

Sex Etc. is a sex education website created by teens for teens. They have created a sex terms online dictionary that includes an LGBTQ specific section.

4. Teen Health Source

Teen Health Source has created a page on their website entitled Queering Sexual Education. Here they provide information about making sexual education more queer-friendly as well as providing helpful resources for teens.

5. ScarleTeen

Scarleteen is the go-to online resource supported by educators at Yale University that provides teen sexual health information. They have created a specific page on their site that addresses questions around sexual orientation and identity.

6. Young Women’s Health

Young Women’s Health has made sure lesbian young women are included in the information they share on their website. They have a dedicated page to lesbian health including sexual health information and resources.

And while not LGBT+ specific, we wanted to give a shout out to Amaze, which provides real info to teens about all the things they have questions about, and they deliver this information through cute animated videos. They have specific pages on their website where they share videos about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Helping lesbian and bisexual girls understand their risk of getting an STI when they are having sex with girls or guys is key to their sexual health. In addition to expanding inclusive sex ed in schools across the country, credible online sources need to be more readily available. In doing so, the web can be a powerful tool and a crucial source of much needed sexual health information for LGB+ girls.

References

[1] CDC. (2017, May 24). Adolescent and School Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/smy.htm

[2] Doull M, Wolowic J, Saewyc E, Rosario M, Prescott T, Ybarra M. Why girls choose not to use barriers to prevent sexually transmitted infection during female-to-female sex. Journ. of Adoles. Health. 2017; 1-6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.10.005 https://innovativepublichealth.org/publications/why-girls-choose-not-to…

[3] Kimberly J. Mitchell, Michele L. Ybarra, Josephine D. Korchmaros, Joseph G. Kosciw (2014). Accessing sexual health information online: use, motivations and consequences for youth with different sexual orientations. Health Education Research, 29 (1), 147–157. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyt071

[4] Bull S, Nabembezi D, Birungi R, Kiwanuka J, Ybarra ML. Cyber-Senga: Ugandan youth preferences for content in an internet-delivered comprehensive sexuality education programme. East Afr J Public Health. 2010;7(1):58-63. https://innovativepublichealth.org/publications/cyber-senga-ugandan-you…

[5] Ybarra ML, Suman M. Help seeking behavior and the Internet: A national survey. Int J Med Inform. 2006;75(1):29-41. https://innovativepublichealth.org/publications/help-seeking-behavior-a…

[6] Brown, K., Bull, S., Christensen, J.L., Hieftje,K., Jozowski, K.N., Ybarra, M.L. Serious games for sexual health. Games Health J. 2015;4(2):69-77. https://innovativepublichealth.org/publications/serious-games-for-sexua…

[7] Trevor Project (2019). Sexual Health. Retrieved from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trvr_support_center/sexual-health/

[8] GLSEN (2019). LGBTQ-Inclusive Sexual Health Education. Retrieved from https://www.glsen.org/lgbtq-inclusive-sexual-health-education

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