Colombia and Canada: Teens Taking Online Sex Ed Course Have Reduced Sexually Transmitted Infections, Improved Condom Use

Researchers have discovered a more effective solution to teaching sex education. A team of researchers from the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, and Yale University, using researchers in South America, studied the behavior and attitudes of Colombian ninth graders who took a sex education course.

Profamilia, an arm of Planned Parenthood International, provided the course at a cost of $14 per student. The study tracked 138 ninth graders from 69 public schools in 21 Colombian cities who took a semester-long course. Each day, the students spent 90 minutes in class on the computer, working through interactive modules and quizzes on topics such as pregnancy, sexual rights, contraceptives, and infections. Students could ask questions and get feedback by private communication with a remote Profamilia tutor. University of Toronto Assistant Professor, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, explained that it can be awkward for teenagers to discuss sexual activity, so the students had an advantage in working online for this course and having access to the remote tutor. Researchers carried out a survey of baseline attitudes before the course began, one week after the course had been completed, and six months later. Students were also given vouchers for condoms six months after the course.

The results of the study showed a reduction in self-reported infections for those students who were sexually active when the course started and a 10 percent increase in condom use among students who had taken the course. The sexually active teens increased their condom use, had fewer sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and showed a greater awareness of sexually abusive situations. Gonzalez-Navarro noted that there was a significant, positive impact on sexual behavior among friend groups who had taken the course. The researchers published the study as a working paper.