Teens turn to Internet for sex ed - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Teens turn to Internet for sex ed

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CHICAGO, Ill. - It's part of growing up, that conversation with an adult about the birds and the bees, but in the 21st century, your teenagers' new sex-ed teacher, may be the Internet.

It's an awkward time, those teenage years.

Talking about sex can be among the most embarrassing moments. In fact, the CDC reports that one in three teens say they've never received information about birth control, which doesn't surprise University of Chicago gynecologist Melissa Gilliam.

"Certainly in early adolescence, 11, 12 and 13 that can be a very difficult time for children to discuss sex," said Gilliam.

In the 21st century, there's a new sex ed class on the Internet.

It can teach safe sex MTV style or less raucous sites like Scarleteen.com and even YouTube.com.

Virtual sex ed is so popular, Columbia College and the University of Chicago have held symposiums about it.

Now there's even a web site that's selling home test kits for two of the most common STDs, Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Tracey Powell is the CEO of Chicago-based Getstdtested.com.

"These young adults, they live on line. So they prefer to having ordering as well as the results delivered on line," said Powell.

The tests arrive in the mail, so you can take them yourselves.

You mail it back to a lab and in a few days you get an e-mail back.

A positive test result will direct you to free advice by phone, or on the Internet and that kind of help is clearly necessary.

The CDC says that in 2006 one million young people age ten to 24 had Chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis.

"Chlamydia is important because it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, long term pelvic pain." Said Gilliam.

Dr. Gilliam also worries that an anonymous test, and help offered by phone may not be enough for teens to get treatment, or make necessary changes.

"There are concerns that maybe consulting over the phone or thru the Internet is not as effective as face to face consulting," Gilliam said.

As parents also wrestle with the awkward years, there's one way to filter through sex ed on the web.

Dr. Gilliam says limit it to sites that end in dot-gov, or dot-edu, a site for educational institutions.
"If there is a question that a parent couldn't answer but they could go to a trusted site and get that information, that would be a terrific tool," said Gilliam.
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