These days many people are turning to the internet to learn about sex. For people who are embarrassed to talk about sex, scared to ask questions or uncomfortable with the idea of asking someone in person, the internet provides the anonymity they crave. The privacy the internet affords us is one of the most beneficial aspects when it comes to getting information about sexuality and sexual health.
That is the good news. The bad news is there is no shortage of websites that contain inaccurate and sometimes even false information, especially when it comes to sex. Put the words “sex education” in a search engine and more websites that can be counted will come up. How does someone sort the good from the bad? How can someone tell if the information is accurate or not? It can certainly be confusing as someone with questions tries to navigate the waters of the internet. Getting the wrong information can be disastrous. A website that only discusses abstinence for example would not give someone looking for condoms use the information they need and that may lead to unprotected sex. Unprotected sex may lead to unplanned pregnancy or STD infection.
If you are considering looking online for answers to your questions about sexuality or sexual health you may want to keep the following in mind:
First, find out all you can about the website you are viewing. Look at the “About” section. If there is no “About” section that might be a bad sign to begin with. A reputable website will tell you why they are qualified to give information, who their experts are and their credentials.
Second, be wary of websites pushing their own agenda. Some organizations are more about pushing their own values than giving accurate information. You can tell a lot about a website or company’s perspective by checking out who funds them and their presentation. If they seem biased, they probably are. Using scare tactics, guilt and shame are not good educational tools.
Third, look for websites that back up their information with scientific research and/or experts in the field of sexuality. Many people get online and call themselves sex educators but not all of them actually studied sexuality as a discipline. Government websites like the CDC are excellent for getting statistics and information about HIV for example and they are continuously posting new research and data.
As a consumer you have the right to questions where information comes from as well as how accurate the information is. Information about sexuality and sexual health is no different and being proactive will help ensure you get the information you need.