Sex Education

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding how we teach kids about sex, as well as where they are taught about sex and who is teaching it. You don’t have to live in Ontario to know (or rather have heard) at least a little bit of what’s going on with the Ontario Sexual Education Curriculum.

The Ontario government put forward a new curriculum for Health and Physical Education with a lot of updates to the small section involving ‘sex-ed’.  These changes were impart brought by two very impressive 13 year old girls, who created a petition asking that issues of consent be addressed in sexual education. You can check out their page for yourself. Their push lead to a lot of other youths stepping up and asking for better education on sexual-health in general. The information being taught right now is dated and even harmful. The new curriculum will be put in place next year.  You can read all the arguments for and against (I’m not including a link against it, if you Google Ontario Sex Education the list is full of some pretty biased, offensive opinions against the update).

I support it the new curriculum. You can’t rely on every parent to give their children an accurate lesson regarding sexual education, just like you can’t expect every parent to be able to teach calculus, biology, or music. It’s been said a few times but if you don’t give kids access to proper information, they will just find out on their own. Usually via the internet and while I believe the internet can be a glorious wealth of information, I firmly believe the internet is cannot teach children about consent.

The internet is no place to learn about sex.

While there are some very sex-positive, body-image positive, intelligent sites that offer a lot of valuable information, you have to already know to look for those sites in order to find them.

Have you ever typed just ‘sex’ into Google? Or even ‘sex education’, I dare you to type ‘Sex Education’ in the Youtube search bar (but actually don’t, it’s not good). I don’t remember when I first looked up ‘sex’ online but it probably involved Urban Dictionary and it definitely was just the single word ‘sex’ (followed by other words I had heard in the hallways). I don’t want to fear monger but it’s something you should be concerned about. It’s a lot harder to undo ‘bad’ learning (the stuff that comes out of looking up sexual terminology in Urban Dictionary) than it is to start off teaching the right stuff.

One of the better but still very troubling “sexual education” videos 

If someone is lucky enough to find something actually educational in their online journey, it often comes off as stunted and uncomfortable –it is after all an uncomfortable topic. The videos don’t cover a borad amount of topics and so they inevitably lead to more Googling.

Videos lead to more questions without a clear source for the answers.
Videos lead to more questions without a clear source for the answers.

The real problem, is even the content online is still too passive. Throwing a bunch of somewhat facts and leaving the audiece to interpret it as they chose doesn’t always work, especially here, Until someone comes up with actual integrated media, that’s interactive (in a way that leaves room for questions and answers) I believe sexual education is something that has be done face to face and with someone actually trained to teach the subject

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Screams About Screens

If you haven’t already heard, last week Taiwan amended the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act to include regulations on the use of electronic devices by children under 18. Basically Taiwan is trying to limit the amount of time children spend on ‘screens’ by threatening to fine parents up to $1595 if their children’s use of electronic devices “exceeds a reasonable time”.  The specifics are left vague at best. A “reasonable time” is never numerically defined, and there has been little mention of how the government plans to enforce this law but it has been globally interpreted as harsh and excessive. Many are saying that by including this regulation in the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act, the government is comparing the use of screens to addictive substances like drugs and alcohol.

Get help.

Of course, the revision to the act has caused quite an uproar, especially among Taiwanese citizens, expressing a “reasonable” (whatever reasonable might come to mean) feeling that the Taiwanese government might be crossing the line with their involvement in family life. Now despite what some of my friends say, I am not the biggest Luddite on the planet. In fact I spend the majority of my day on Facebook and I don’t think it’s a bad thing, so bear with me when I say this next part: Perhaps the Taiwan Lawmakers have the right idea.

Remember this gem?

The inclusion of screen time into the act, at the very least, gets parents thinking about how much time their kids spend on the screen and maybe, about what they’re seeing during that time. It often feels like we’re so worried about how social media might stunt children’s social development and there is a lot of hysteria over digital media’s ability to influence Youths’ behavior regarding sex and violence but very little attention is paid to their exposure to advertisements. Think about it, people everywhere are trying to reverse the effects years of marketing have had on our self-esteem (via magazines, television, etc.), heck even the effects it’s had on our parents’ self-esteem.  Meanwhile, online marketing is everywhere. Kids today are getting at least double the exposure to ads than we had when we were kids. Advertisements are all over the screen. On Facebook profiles and homepages, before games on the phone or tablet, they are found in everyday conversation through trends and hashtags.

Not to say that advertising and the media today, is necessarily more harmful than it was in the past

Sure, children under 13 aren’t supposed to be using sites like Facebook, so we have some way of limiting their exposure at an earlier stage …except we all know that’s not true. Kids under 13 are all over Facebook and nowadays some parents go as far as creating accounts for their babies before they’re even born. We know this, Facebook knows this, and so do marketers.

Even Solo knows it

So kids today are exposed to more ads and ads that are targeted specifically to their individual interests based on their logged use of the internet.

I wouldn’t go as far as perhaps the Taiwan Government and compare the use of digital media to drug or alcohol use but come on, there is a reason a lot of these sites use blue colour schemes. These sites are designed to keep people scrolling (and staying online) for as long as possible and they’re hoping they can throw as many ads at you as possible. You, kids, everyone. I don’t believe in censorship and besides, unless we introduce some crazy and also peaceful global governing body to monitor the internet, it is somewhat impossible to make the internet completely ‘safe’ or even within “reason”.

Maybe one day, when Brain finally succeeds, he can control the internet…but I don’t think he cares about your kids

I do believe we have some sort of duty, at the very least, to be weary of exposure to so many ads at such a young age. Rather than fall on a tirade against internet content, monitoring children’s use seems like a better alternative. Not the best alternative. I should mention, a lot of schools in Toronto for example, teach Media Literacy to children at a young age (at least schools with the funds/means) and this is probably a more effective way to combat the potential dangers of constant online advertising but I don’t believe this new law is the worst thing to happen to human rights. At least not so far…


@AmeliaR_N