Safe side of online sex | Amy Johnson

This year, when you think sexuality education, think online. Think text. Think interactive. And no, I’m not talking about sexting or online porn.

When young people were asked the number one way they learn about sex, their response was — you guessed it — Google. Thankfully, some very creative and enterprising people have developed a bunch of resources that can help parents and teens tackle sex ed accurately, easily and technologically.

While they shouldn’t take the place of conversations, and heart-to-hearts about your values, these resources can augment the sexuality education of your teens. Still think you don’t need to bother?  Remember that 50 percent of the 19 million new STDs each year are contracted by 15-24-year-olds. In addition, there are still 56,300 new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. each year, and 14,000 people still die in the U.S. annually of AIDS, according to the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York.

There are several ways to use the information below. Parents: check them out for yourselves and talk to your teens about them. If your parental controls are set to block sites about sex on your computer, you might have to “allow” these sites, or unblock them. Teens: access these sites and know you’re getting a safe site, accurate information and teen-friendly interfaces.

Reputable online sites

• Scarleteen (scarleteen.com): Scarleteen is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online. The site provides information, message boards for questions, and referrals.

• Sex, etc. (sexetc.org): Sex, etc. is a “by teens, for teens” site run out of Rutgers University. It provides information on topics like health, relationships, LGBTQ, alcohol and drugs.  They also have comics, quizzes, videos and a magazine published four times a year.

• Go Ask Alice (goaskalice.com): Go Ask Alice is run out of Columbia University Health Services.  It has information on general health, fitness, alcohol and drugs, as well as sexuality and relationships. It provides information through question and answer archives.

• That’s Not Cool (thatsnotcool.com): That’s Not Cool is an interactive website that focuses on digital communication, including topics such as textual harassment, pic pressure, privacy problems and rumors. It features video vignettes and the ability for youth to create their own avatar and interact with scenarios.

• Bedsider (bedsider.org): Bedsider is a site devoted to birth control. There are links to finding free birth control, to help you decide which method is right for you, and a reminder service for when to take your pill, change your patch, visit the doctor, etc.

Text information

• Sex-Ed Loop (sexedloop.sexetc.org): A project of Sex, etc., Sex-Ed Loop is a website with general information for everyone and some information specific to Chicago area teens. You can text “sexedloop” to 61827 to receive weekly sex-ed info on your cellphone. Data rates apply.

• In Case You’re Curious (plannedparenthood.org/rocky-mountains): This service is run through Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and allows you to text in questions anonymously and get accurate information texted back within 24 hours. It does not diagnose conditions or give personal medical advice. To sign up, text ICYC to 66746. Text message rates apply.

STD info and help

• GYT (itsyoursexlife.com/gyt): An MTV-run site with the mission to reduce the spread of STDs through information. Includes information about what you need to know, how to protect yourself, how and where to get tested, talking to partners and more.

• inSPOT (inspot.org): InSPOT provides resources about STD testing. They also provide a free, anonymous e-card service to let partners, past and present, know if you’ve been diagnosed with an STD so they know to get tested.

This year, use these resources to get technical about sexuality education.

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