In the past year, I've written about how kids seek out information on the topics they may be too embarrassed to ask us about. Here's a snippet from a recent article I wrote for The Washington Post:
Curiosity about sex is developmentally normal and using the Internet to answer questions, especially awkward ones, is more common than not... But when kids look online for this kind of information, they can find themselves in some of the darker corners of the Internet. Talking about sex online, particularly with strangers or in chat rooms, is a serious risk behavior. This is especially true for LGBTQ teens.
It’s critical that kids know where to go to get safe and accurate answers. Many kids, for lack of another option, will look to online pornography or adult forums (like Reddit) when they don’t understand something about sex. To preempt this, ask your kids where would they go for this kind of information. If they say they’d ask their friends, have them consider if another 14-year-old is a suitable source of sexual health information.
There are so many strategies that are safer than Google, chat rooms or asking another kid. Parents can buy books and store them somewhere they can be discreetly accessed if needed. They can identify another trusted adult, one who is much cooler and possibly younger than they are, as the go-to person for kids to talk to. They can also create a folder of bookmarked websites (that they’ve looked over) and let kids know they’re free to peruse anything on those sites privately.
I had a lot of people ask me to come up with a list of online resources for teens about adolescent sexuality and sex education, so here it is. I need to make a couple of things really clear though:
First, I’m a public health professor who believes that clinically accurate, science-based, and age-appropriate information should be provided to young people so they can make well-informed decisions about their bodies and health.
Second, I’m a mom and fielding questions like “Hey, so what’s masturbation?” or “Why do people laugh every time the number sixty-nine comes up?” make me profoundly uncomfortable and I get super awkward really fast.
Third, the sites below may not be a good fit for you. They may be wildly too progressive or ridiculously regressive, depending on your perspective and background. That’s ok. Your family’s values should be part of how your kids learn about sexuality, pick what works for you.
Fourth, sometimes our kids’ questions push the boundaries of our personal values or faith beliefs. Often, those questions are just about curiosity. Maybe they want to know what something means because they keep hearing about it on the bus or in the locker room. It’s important that they have places to get answers that satisfy their curiosity, or they will keep looking for answers. Remember, they’ll usually go to Google (where they could be directed anywhere) or to their friends (who generally don’t know any more than they do).
Fifth, this list is not comprehensive and it may change over time. Feel free to email with resources I don't know about yet at email@example.com.
Also, if you have younger kids (ages 5-12) and are interested in resources to teach them about birds and bees or basic "your body is changing" stuff, check out this post from 2012 called "When It's Time to Have the Talk."
Center for Young Women’s Health: https://youngwomenshealth.org
Go Ask Alice: https://goaskalice.columbia.edu
It Matters (app only): http://www.itmatters.me
Love Matters (for teens with disabilities): https://lovematters.in/en
MTV’s It’s Your Sex Life: http://www.itsyoursexlife.com
My Sex Doctor (app only): http://mysexdoctor.org
Our Whole Lives (curriculum/in person classes): https://www.uua.org/re/owl
Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens
Safe Teens: https://safeteens.org
Sex Etc: https://sexetc.org
Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine: https://www.adolescenthealth.org/Resources/Clinical-Care-Resources/Sexual-Reproductive-Health/Sexual-Reproductive-Health-Resources-For-Adolesc.aspx#Friendly
Stay Teen: https://stayteen.org
Teen Health Source: http://teenhealthsource.comYoung Men’s Health: https://youngmenshealthsite.org