Educating young people and modernizing sex education

Sex education is still a controversial topic in American schools, largely due to the fact that the way we talk about it is outdated. Students need to know about their rights, their bodies, and what it all means concerning their sexual health.
People Impacted
$ 2T
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

The students currently receiving sex education are more tech savvy than any generation before them. Making this education more tech oriented may engage them in a way that we have failed to do so in the past. Much of the debate on sex education in America is what we teach, but we can all do better about discussing how we teach.

Symptoms and Causes

3 Types of Sex-Ed in America

There are three main sex education curricula employed in the United States: Abstinence-Only, Abstinence-Plus, and Comprehensive curricula (SSN)

  • “Abstinence-Only” and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs are sometimes called Sexual Risk Avoidance Programs, and teach abstinence as the only morally sound trajectory for teenagers. These curricula do not provide information on the use of contraception or condoms to prevent diseases, much less unintended pregnancies.

  • “Abstinence-Plus” Education includes information about contraception and condoms, but promotes abstinence until marriage.

  • “Comprehensive Sex Education” teaches youth that sexuality is a normal and healthy part of human life. This curriculum discusses abstinence as the most effective way for teens to avoid unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, but also equips students to make their own decisions from an informed perspective. 

Sex Education is Largely seen as Legislative and Varies from State to State

Legislation for sex education falls under the jurisdiction of State's rights, creating disparities in what public school students learn in classrooms across the country. Even when sex education is required, state policies still vary widely regarding the inclusion of critical information (USC Nursing).

the impact
Negative Effects

Abstinence-Only Education is Not Improving Negative Statistics

The United States ranks first among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates. This trend remains significant after accounting for socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state. These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S (NCBI).

Creates a Public Health Crisis with Misinformation

Promoting abstinence until marriage as the only legitimate option for young people violates medical ethics and harms young people because such programs generally withhold information about pregnancy and STD prevention and overstate the risk of contraceptive failure (NPR).

Pereptuates Gender Inequality

Abstinence Only education tends to reinforce damaging gender stereotypes, including one curriculum teaching that girls care less about achievement and their futures than do boys (Planned Parenthood). Additionally, this curriculum includes rhetoric that emphasizes outdated teachings about girls responsibility to 'just say no,' and not 'create temptations for boys.'

Further Suffering of the LGBTQ Community

Young men who have sex with men, who may identify as gay or bisexual, account for more than two-thirds of new HIV infections among people ages 13 to 29. Within this group, men of color are particularly affected. Additionally, men who have sex with men account for about two-thirds of new syphilis cases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that incidence in this community may be rising.

Young women in high school who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are more likely to contract an STI and more likely to become pregnant than those who identify as heterosexual or questioning. They are also more likely to have experienced coerced sexual contact. Young women who have had both male and female partners are at the highest risk of coercion and dating violence.

Among transgender people, HIV prevalence rates are more than four times the national average, and transgender women of color are particularly affected. Transgender and gender nonconforming youth also experience high rates of sexual violence, particularly transgender and gender nonconforming youth of color.

Because LGBT youth experience more negative sexual-health outcomes than their heterosexual peers, they would especially benefit from effective and inclusive sex education (CAP).

Economic Impact

States See Economic Losses Over Teen Pregnancy

In 2009, teen births in Mississippi cost taxpayers $154.9 million, according to a report from the Mississippi Economic Policy Center. Those costs include lost revenue from lower wages among teen parents, incarceration costs for the children of teen parents, and foster care costs, according to the report. Though lost wages and incomes of mothers who do not finish school because of pregnancy contribute to that figure, one of the biggest costs associated with teen childbearing is the poor outlook for teen parents’ offspring, who often need public assistance (LA Times).

Success Metrics
  • Standardize comprehensive sex education nation wide.

  • Provide access to educational resources outside of school as well.

  • Decrease teen pregnancy globally by promoting gender equality.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Public Health Organizations

  • School Districts

  • State Legislatures

  • Planned Parenthood

  • Parents

  • Students

  • Teenagers

  • Lawmakers

  • Women's Rights Activists

  • Teachers

  • Healthcare Workers

financial insights
Current Funding
  • Planned Parenthood

Ideas Description

Updating how we talk about sex education and prevent resources to teens can make solutions more accessible and relatable:

Through My Sex Doctor, sexual health information is supplied to smartphones through an app. Users can find information on sexual health, sexual behavior, sexuality and wider topics (such as the legal stance on young people sending explicit sexual text messages, known as 'sexting'). The app aims to help educate young people and modernize sex education.

The Safely app allows users to manage their personal sexual health privately and securely. Users can import and view their STD status, share results with their partner, schedule testing, and speak with a provider - all through a HIPAA compliant, encrypted app.

We know that when it comes to sex, relationships, identity and more, googling things doesn’t always work and sometimes you just can’t ask your friends. On Okayso, you can chat with people you can trust to get the support and information you need, whenever you need it. We’re here for you, for free.

Real Talk crowdsources authentic teen stories on topics like puberty, bullying, and mental health. All stories are carefully screened and curated, and each is paired with a high-quality online resource before being published to the app.

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