In the times we live in the internet has become to first and usually last stop in the search for information. According to the Pew Research Center Nine in ten (93%) teens have a computer or have access to one at home, Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members. With that in mind, it is a fair guess that when teenagers have questions about their bodies and sexuality, they may very well “google it”.
Sexuality is an important part of a person’s identity and sexual education is something that teenagers are going to learn about whether we want them to or not. Parents and educators should be having a conversation about all aspects of sex at an early age with teenagers so they can be prepared and educated about the matter. But we cannot always expect parents and educators to properly educate impressionable youth on the subject. Sometimes teenagers ask friends or classmates questions about sex and as well intentioned as they maybe, they may not have a knowledgeable perspective about sex education.
So I can see why teenagers search the World Wide Web on this valuable information. Unfortunately, most schools do not teach students how to tell if a site is trustworthy. Information Literacy is topic that needs to be integrated into the school system because technology is becoming more and more utilized in the schools. That being said, I looked through 6 sites half of which I deemed credible or accurate and the other half I did not.
One of the first websites that popped up for sex education was the Mayo Clinic page. The site had many different topics ranging from STD prevention to talking to kids about sex. The Mayo Clinic is a health organization with an aim to improve health overall. I would say this website is credible because they linked their sources and remained fairly factual based and backed up their claims with references. Knowing this a respected health organization, its reputation definitely added to its credibility. My second site is Scarleteen. The website is very appealing to teens and has an interesting format. It describes itself as an inclusive, comprehensive, and smart and has a plethora of topics and even user questions being answered. The site’s founder is Heather Corrina who is an activist and community organizer among other things. The site offers many resources and references for the claims it makes so I will deem it credible. I had not heard of it before my initial research so I had no expectation of it. The third site I found the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It served mainly as an advocate of teaching sex education. It gives parents and teachers resources in order to educate young people. It had different aspects of sex education such as reproductive health and teen pregnancy, which is obviously very relevant to teenagers. I deemed it credible because of the referenced works and resources provided by the website. I can see why being the council on sexual education why they would promote it and maybe in ways they are biased. Overall, I judged them as credible.
For the inaccurate websites, the first one I found was “Fathers For Life”. The site had a very text heavy approach which teenagers might be mislead into thinking is filled with facts and credibility. Instead it had many opinions on things like Men’s Issues and Fatherlessness instead of educating teens on safe sex or resources. Give all these factors, I would deem the site as not credible because it offered more opinion than fact and tried to present itself as plainly factual. The next website on this list is Stopped Planned Parenthood. It claims to be about sex education but it is really about stopping sex education in school. It promotes abstinence only sex education programs as the only programs that work which many believe is untrue. This website has a clear agenda of stopping Planned Parenthood and the bias is very heavy in the text. That’s why I deem this site not credible. My last website is It’s Great To Wait. It’s all in the name; this site promotes itself as sex education but really promotes abstinence only and shuns sexuality. It does have topics like STDs and pregnancy but a few menu options down, teens will come across “regret” and “secondary virginity”. I think the bias is very clear and even when the site references statistics it shows a very narrow portion or only statistics that further their own agenda. I would deem this site as not credible.
The credibility of the source of information on the internet is not something that is at the forefront of educational policy making. I think that this will hurt us in the long run because unsuspecting teens turn into unsuspecting adults who do not really have a clue towards the difference between unbiased information and information that is specifically peddled to them. I think information literacy should be taught in schools because it is one of the skills that will actually follow you through your education and in your life after school. If young people are unaware of the pseudo-information being mislabeled as accurate, then they will be unable to distinguish truth from deception. This will lead to a gullible generation of people who believe anything they read. This is not critical thinking or questioning. Not checking for the accuracy of the information you get off the internet is unwise no matter the age group.
We cannot allow our children to go through their lives in the technology age uneducated on Information Literacy. Information Literacy is not something that can be taught in a billboard or ad. It needs to be integrated into school curriculums as an important facet of critical learning and awareness. It seems unwise to expect students to utilize technology and the internet at a young age and not teach them how to assess whether a source is being honest or trying to mislead them into thinking opinion is fact.