Provide students with the resources to navigate health information online.
With so much opinion-based content online, it's hard to identify reliable sources. A simple Google search doesn't filter out the myths and misleading information, so how can we determine which articles to trust? For teens seeking answers to health-related questions, the sea of inaccurate, biased, or outright untrue information can complicate a personal, often private investigation.
As adults, we all know what it's like to struggle with body image and healthy relationships in our formative years. Fortunately for teens today, the internet gives them an anonymous approach to health and sex education, giving them the freedom to take charge of their exploration of personal health and well-being.
However, it's hard to know when you can trust the information you find online. With online publishing tools openly available to experts and novices, alike, it's more important than ever that kids have the media literacy skills they need to evaluate the credibility of the information they find online.
When determining the credibility of health sites, I ask three questions:
- What type of expertise does the author have on the subject they are writing about?
- What is the website’s main purpose?
- What is the quality of information and who is the intended audience for the content provided?
Trustworthy Health Resources for Students and Educators
It can be tough for educators and parents to address these topics head-on with teens. According to the Guttmacher Institute Study, there is great potential for the internet to lead more teens to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information and to increase their trust in the information they get from this source.
These six free, research-based websites can fill in the gaps of the discussion and help students think critically about the flood of information they encounter outside of the classroom.
Amaze does a good job of making sensitive subjects accessible and easy to understand, while also providing solid, reliable content. The site addresses topics about sex education, changing bodies, and positive relationships through the use of engaging videos. The casual tone and great visual style make this website an excellent tool for teens to navigate the waters of junior high and high school.
Young Men’s Health
Young Men’s Health is a useful resource for boys and young men to explore health information in depth. The website is divided into sections including featured articles, an “Ask Us” page, health guides, and a blog. The health guides provide research-based, easy to understand answers about topics ranging from nutrition and fitness to sexuality and health. Many of the pages also include a section on how to talk to your healthcare provider about health concerns. The site links to the corresponding site for girls, Center for Young Women’s Health, and a teen health blog, Teen Speak.
Center for Young Women’s Health
The Center for Young Women’s Health offers quality health info on a broad range of topics, and each is available in English and Spanish. The articles are arranged alphabetically and by topic, and there are also quizzes like “Are you ready for sex?” and “How Much Do I Know about Contraception?” There is an extensive section on periods and menstruation, as well as information on more contemporary concerns like finding environmentally-friendly menstrual products.
GirlsHealth.gov provides helpful, healthy information about women’s health and female-specific issues. There is no log-in to explore the site and all its resources, so students are able to keep anonymity while getting their questions answered. The topics covered are Fitness; Nutrition; Illness and Disability; Drugs, Alcohol, and Smoking; Your Feelings; Relationships; Bullying; Safety; Your Future; and Environmental Health.
Go Ask Alice!
Go Ask Alice is an excellent website for students to freely explore the answers to questions that teenagers may feel uncomfortable bringing up. The topics are discussed in-depth, allowing readers to learn facts beyond their original question. The site’s archive is organized into nine robust sections within the Health Answers allowing users to dive into topics such as Alcohol & Other Drugs, Emotional Health, General Health, Nutrition & Physical Activity, Relationships, Sexual & Reproductive Health, and Recently Posted Q&A. There are also fact sheets, quizzes, polls, and a blue text box where teens can anonymously submit their own questions.
The KidsHealth website provides digestible and reliable health information for kids. Topics range from how the body works to how to deal with bullies. The Word! Kid’s Medical Dictionary is a handy glossary that decodes any unfamiliar medical terms if kids get confused. The quizzes and activities are also fun ways for students to understand the material. There are also options to listen to the text or translate into Spanish, making the information more accessible to students with different learning needs.