Facebook. YouTube. SnapChat. Apps are everywhere, often playing a major role in teens’ daily lives. Technology can make information more accessible to teens and supplement what is (or isn’t) taught in the classroom. Some adults are not comfortable talking with young people about sexuality and some young people are not comfortable asking adults about the topic, which is why apps and online resources or—digital tools—can be especially important in helping teens get accurate sexual health information.
Many organizations have designed digital tools aimed at teens and young adults. From helping teens track their menstrual cycles to answering sexual health questions via chat or text, these tools have a variety of uses. To help those who work with teens develop a better understanding of what tools are out there, Answer reviewed some current sexual and reproductive health digital tools in a recent report, “Reaching Teens Where They Are.” The report acknowledges that adults in the field of sexual and reproductive health are always looking for new and better ways to engage young people and offers information about how to use digital tools to provide information to teens. Thirty-one initial digital tools were narrowed down to 19 that fulfilled seven different criteria, such as targeting young people between the ages of 13 and 24 and addressing some aspect of sexual and reproductive health. Teen staff writers and national contributors who write for Sex, Etc., Answer’s award-winning national sexual health magazine and website for teens, then reviewed the selected tools. Their feedback appears throughout the report.
The report makes several recommendations for educators looking to reach young people with sexual health information. One of those recommendations is to involve teens and young adults in the development of tools intended for them. Tools could be improved by conducting focus groups and surveys to gather teens’ feedback. Another recommendation is to explore ways to integrate sexual health information into already popular tools. Few teens make the effort to specifically search for and download an app they may only use once. But tools that are connected to platforms many teens already use will naturally reach more young people. Creating information that is compatible with the giants of social media, like Facebook and YouTube, is a great way to reach young people where they are.
With feedback from teens informing their development and appealing features that catch teens attention, digital sexual health tools can not only answer teens’ questions teens, but also improve their quality of life.