TORONTO – The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada wants to see social media added to the province’s sexual health education curriculum to help students deal with amount of sexual information available through the internet.
“Helping young people learn how to navigate that, how to filter out information that is not credible and not helpful,” said Alex McKay, the Executive Director of SIECCAN.
The current program in Ontario is more than 15 years old. On Thursday, the Liberal government announced said it will re-introduce a new sexual health education curriculum.
This happened before, when Dalton McGuinty was Premier, but the curriculum changes caused backlash from some groups and parents so the curriculum stayed the same.
In a survey of more than 5000 Canadian students in Grades 4-11, Media Smarts found that 40% had their own devices by Grade 6. High school student Alex Metaxas said he uses his phone to communicate with friends every day.
“It’s probably the easiest way to communicate through texting and that sort of stuff,” said Metaxas.
The concern among experts, is that some apps such as Communet, Ask.fm and Yik Yak allow users to post anonymously. Metaxas admits that is a problem.
“It opens everything up. When you’re anonymous there is really no limit to what you can say,” said Miguel Bucio, a friend of Metaxas. “I think that’s really easy for anonymous bullying. People find it fun but it can also be very dangerous.”
Emily Riff, a Grade 9 student, admits to being on the opposite end of anonymous messages.
“They say really mean things, like I’m not going to say anything for example because it’s mean, but I was getting a lot of it and it sucks,” said Riff.
Sexual education through social media is part of the latest issue of Today’s Parent magazine.
“When you add the anonymity online, it’s a really dangerous mix. Because it just makes it too easy to go too far,” said Editor-in-Chief Sasha Emmons. “I think especially for girls, the sexual nature of conversations online it really pushes girls to be sexual very quickly.”
Emmons said some apps are not moderated.
“It’s really up to parents to try to do their best to stay on top of what their kids are doing online. Figure out the new thing that they’re into. It’s tough. But keep the lines of communication open,” said Emmons.
The province wants to hear advice from parents when it comes to a new curriculum. With a social media landscape that is changing every day, McKay said he would like to see the changes sooner rather than later.
“When I was growing up, it was difficult to find information about sex. Now it’s just a click away,” he said.