Let’s Talk About Sex!
||Published: 12th October 2012 00:58
Let's Talk About Sex!
A sextionary, some no holds barred FAQs, pleasure zones and quick access to support services, all help teenagers understand more about their sexual health.
These are all features of a new website and app designed by young people for young people, using research from the Netherlands and health psychologists from Coventry University, to educate and inform them about relationships and sex.
The website, from Warwickshire's Respect Yourself Campaign is aimed at young people aged 13 and over. It is available online atwww.respectyourself/info or as a smartphone app.
Young people from Warwickshire Youth Council VOX and Avon Valley School in Rugby worked in partnership with NHS Warwickshire, Coventry University, Warwickshire County Council and Going Off The Rails to develop the website and app. The brief was to provide information that young people want and also give them the tools to access services more easily.
All the young people involved initially put forward ideas for content. They agreed they wanted information and help with relationships and emotional health and well-being as well as support on how to access contraceptive and sexual health services.
The resulting website contains all aspects of their requirements whilst ensuring that an app, which can be downloaded from the site, is a ‘friend in their pocket' that would help them to walk through the door of a service and enable them to feedback on their experience.
A key part of the website is the service finder - resulting from a Coventry University project which used a number of behavioural change techniques to strengthen young people's motivation to access help and support from local services.
Working with focus groups of young people, Health Psychologists from the Applied Research Centre in Health and Lifestyle Interventions (ARC-HLI) identified barriers that young people experience in accessing services. Behaviour change techniques were then selected to directly target these. These techniques have been translated into a number of features that aim to develop positive attitudes and confidence amongst young people in using services and to normalise this behaviour.
Unique features include; print off slips to be presented to receptionists which explain the reason for the visit, information and advice to remove or ease worry such as taking along a friend and using relaxation techniques, and the easy identification and location of nearest services. There is a review option which allows users to award stars and post opinions following visits which empowers young people, provides an incentive for services to provide excellent care, and reassures other young people through a word of mouth recommendation.
Katie Newby from ARC-HLI said: "Health psychologists can support public health experts to deliver services that meet customer needs. We are very experienced in this field and use rigorous and transparent techniques to identify what barriers are getting in the way of positive behaviour and then to systematically address these".
"Our aim was to increase access to services. Anecdotal evidence shows that the site is popular and that the service finder is being used. We are hopeful that our evaluation in December will show that we have been successful in strengthening young people's intentions to access services when the time arises. This has been a really exciting project and I feel honoured to have been involved."
Respect Yourself Campaign Manager, Amy Danahay, is thrilled with the outcome of this project. She said: "This is the first website of its kind in the country and we hope to be pioneers for other authorities. Everything on the website came from the young people and we could not have done this without them or indeed the professionals who have supported this project so enthusiastically.
"We have completed the young people's wish list. They asked for the sextionary, pleasure zones and the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered honestly. There is also a section for parents as we believe it is important to keep them involved.
"The site is primarily for young people aged 13 upwards but some of the information may be useful for young people experiencing puberty. It is important that young people get something they need and want, and that onlookers understand the reality of what young people are talking about. The website deals with this curiosity in a fun, yet carefully thought through and educational way."
This website is the next stage of the Respect Yourself Campaign's mission to revolutionise relationships and sex education in Warwickshire.
It builds on learning from a European funded study tour where professionals took to the Netherlands to find out why teenage pregnancy and STI figures are so much lower than the UK.
The website brings to life the ideas of the group and emulates the Dutch approach to youth sexual health which is very open, focused on pleasure as well as biology, and accepting of a young person's natural curiosity.
Amy Danahay added: "The Respect Yourself Campaign is committed to giving young people the power to confidently make positive informed decisions about their sexual health and relationships by building their knowledge and self-esteem. To ensure this happens we have to listen to what young people want and need and recognise that it's not always something that we feel comfortable with but we have to just get on and do it."
CASE STUDY - The Avon Valley School
The working group at Avon Valley was led by Sexual Health Consultant Jonny Hunt and Avon Valley PHSE Coordinator, Sarah Mills. The school selected 16 pupils (two boys and two girls from year groups 8 to 11) to develop the project together.
These youngsters met weekly with Sarah and Jonny over a period of months to learn about the Netherlands approach, research the topic area, gather the opinions of their peers and essentially build the new website from scratch.
Three of the students, Ben and Jake both 15, and Morgan 13 shared their experiences working on the project.
Jake explained how the project started. He said: "We started with a half day training session where we tackled some of the myths around sexual health, found out about sexually transmitted diseases and how easily they can spread. This was all done in an interesting way and made us think about the subject differently.
Ben continued: Some of what we learned about shocked me at first and made me realise how important it is to have the right information to make good choices. To begin with we were all a bit immature and laughing but we soon realised that it wasn't really a laughing matter and getting the right information made us feel a lot more comfortable.
"The youngsters talked about how the project board made them much more open to discussing sex with their parents. Ben said: I showed my mum the website and found her looking at the pleasure zones section. It made me realise that we're all in the same boat and that parents get uncomfortable and have questions too, so it is useful for both of us."
Morgan valued the way the group was allowed to guide the whole process, she said: "It was interesting to learn all about how children learn about sex and relationships in the Netherlands and the research Respect Yourself group had carried out. It gave us a good background to the approach and explained why our opinions were so important.
"We did everything from drawing an outline of the website, picking the sections, and choosing the web designers to make the project happen. It felt really good when people listened to our ideas and then seeing them go live.
When asked what was the best part of the project, Morgan said: "We got the chance to meet new friends from different year groups which we wouldn't have had if we hadn't been involved. It's also been a big boost to my confidence, to begin with talking about sex was nerve wracking but now I find it easy to talk to my parents as well as my friends."
Jake said: "We learned so much for our futures about how to have safe and happy sex and relationships. We have got lots of ideas to take the project further such as special assemblies and promotional badges so I'm looking forward to helping other people develop a good attitude towards sex."
Echoing Jake's comment Ben added: "I'll always remember this experience and will be wearing my Respect Yourself badge for years to come to spread the word to other young people who will tell their friends and pass on the message. If I can change other people's attitude as much as I've changed mine then we will have done our job right."
Jonny Hunt said: "Some of the content may surprise people but we didn't want to censor young people. Every question on the website is a real question from a Warwickshire young person so we had to take it seriously. We've worked on the assumption that if one person is asking others may also need the answer so the questions, which are submitted, reviewed and answered, have been shared. The same principle applies for the Sextionary.
"Tackling the taboo around talking about sex and relationships and breaking down barriers are main aims and I think we've achieved this. The project was all about normalising the topic so people feel comfortable addressing it and know where to go for reliable information.
"Parents have not been ignored in the development of this resource and the young people were particularly passionate about including a parents' zone which is available on every page. They wanted to include this to help their parents understand why they were using the website and to help families start a conversation about an area that is often approached with trepidation from both sides. We think respectyourself.info does this effectively and feedback so far from parents has been really positive."
Mrs Mills is extremely proud of how much her young students have achieved. She said: "Our group of ‘sexperts' have grown so much in terms of confidence and maturity through their involvement in the project. Their communications skills have developed and they are much more self-assured than when we first met.
"For too long now adults have led the way with sex education but we know that teenagers are influenced most by their peers. By treating these young people in a mature way, listening to their ideas, and allowing them to guide the website development we've ended up with some really strong advocates.
"They understand the audience better than we ever can as educators and are in the perfect position to help other young people to respect themselves, feel comfortable to ask questions and have happy intimate relationships."
Report this article as inappropriate
You need to log in before you can do that! It's only a quick registration process to join the AMA network and completely free.