Teens, Trust, And Sex Ed Online

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that of their many sources of sex education (some of it partial and inaccurate, of course), some teens disbelieve the Internet.

It's a qualitative study conducted in 2008, meaning in-depth interviews with "a racially and ethnically diverse sample of 58 teens who were attending three public high schools with different sex education programs," rather than scale, but it's still hard to be bulldozed by a sample size of 58. Previous studies conducted earlier in the decade didn't show wildly different results — sex education classes, friends, and family still tend to be the main sources of sex ed. That is, when those classes are being given. Per the study:

Other national survey data show that while schools remain a dominant source, formal school-based instruction about birth control declined from 81% of 15-19 year old males and 87% of females in 1995 to 66% of males and 70% of females in 2002 (Lindberg et al., 2006; Santelli et al., 2006).

Thank you, abstinence-only education. Interestingly, the interviews in this particular study found that "there were no strong differences by race or ethnicity with the exception of Asian females. For the most part, there was a lack of conversation around issues of safe sex among this group, largely due to the fact that the Asian females we spoke to were less likely than teens of other races and ethnicities to have talked about sex in general with their friends."

The teens in the study also showed a healthy skepticism of the Internet:

The adolescents we interviewed were more likely to distrust information from this source than they were to trust it, and overall they were wary of information from the internet, regardless of whether or not they had actually sought out information from the web (Jones & Biddlecom, 2011). Wary students related that they would trust contraceptive information from the internet if it was from a reputable site. When probed, students indicated that .gov, .org and.edu sites were more likely to be trustworthy, as were sites associated with physicians or health care facilities (e.g., webmd, hospitals and health departments). Distrust of open content websites, and Wikipedia in particular, was common and awareness of the pornographic content of the web also contributed to wariness and distrust of sexual health information from this source.

How lucky for these adolescents that there is a whole domain for them to sift porn from the rest. Should any adolescents be looking online for actual sex education, we recommend Scarleteen.

Schools And Family Are Teens' Most Trusted Sources Of Information About Contraception [Guttmacher]