The internet and related tools are fantastic, cost-effective, widely accessible and utterly adaptable ways to provide comprehensive sexuality and sexual health information….” – Description of keynote address by Heather Corinna, Founder of Scarleteen
The World Wide Web holds the future of sex education. As of last year, fully 95% of teens are online throughout the day, and 25% are online primarily via their smart phones. While teens are more skeptical of sexual health information from internet sources than information from traditional school sex education sources, young people are not immune to the seductive convenience of online content. That is not to underestimate the role of a skilled sex educator, but sex educators need to address, reference, and incorporate online material in order to stay relevant and influential. For better or worse, our lessons plans for teens need to keep pace with a changing world.
To accomplish this, I recommend including YouTube videos.
YouTube? Why YouTube?
You may believe that YouTube does not have a place in the classroom: that is it too distracting, the videos are unprofessional, and students get enough media bombardment elsewhere. You may be uncomfortable with taking the focus off of your own content, or be afraid that you will spend the rest of the class commenting on/defending/answering questions about the video instead of the class content. These are all valid concerns, and YouTube-ing may not fit your teaching style or your student population. However, if you are curious about incorporating YouTube videos into your lesson plan, here are a few reasons why it could be a good choice for you:
- It’s free. While you can order quality videos on a variety of sexuality-related topics from professional companies – Sex Smart Films, Comstock Films – for a small fee, these charges add up. We as sex educators have to be realistic: is it worth the money to get exactly the right video clip for one lesson plan? It’s your call, but always have a no-cost back-up plan, especially if your institution will not put up the cash for sex-related video content.
- It’s convenient. YouTube is by far the most freely available and accessible resource for English-language sex education videos in the world. Google video searches conducted on March 9th, 2014 for “sex education video” and “high school sex education video” generated YouTube clips above other results.
- It’s vast. You can pretty much find anything you want on YouTube. You can not only find a clip relevant to your chosen topic, you can find a clip that matches the tone of your lesson plan and the demographic of your students, if you are willing to put in the time to search and to be creative. For example, if you are crafting a lesson plan about consent, you could incorporate a light-hearted Public Service Announcement, a triggering Public Service Announcement, a play-acted scene, or a news clip, as some examples. The possibilities are endless. I recommend using videos created by other sex educators with a series of videos. This is a great opportunity to introduce your students to another reliable resource.
- It’s flexible. You can edit YouTube videos to show only what you want to show. Whether you want to delete inappropriate content or just want to save time, you can quickly and easily edit a YouTube video with YouTube Editor, TubeChop, Splicd, and any number of other editing options.
- It’s what they use anyway! YouTube’s accessibility and user-friendly set-up makes it the 3rd most used site in the world. Given these statistics, it is worth considering that your students will conduct a YouTube search on the topic of your lesson plan. Of course, there are many other comprehensive online resources : ScarletTeen, Advocates for Youth, etc. While these resources are valuable and worth incorporating into your lesson plans, I would argue that it is sensible to use a resource your students already know and understand. This way, they can easily search for the videos you use in class whenever they want.
Since we can assume that teens view YouTube content, and are savvy enough to search for sex-related videos, sex educators have ability to guide them toward useful, accurate, and age-appropriate material. This way, teens have some foundational material to use to compare against inaccurate and inappropriate YouTube content. If and when your students watch other videos with misguided or problematic information, they can either dismiss it, or it starts a conversation. Either is better than taking sexuality-related YouTube videos at face-value.
Okay, I see why. Now, how?
Incorporating YouTube into a Sex Ed lesson plan can be a tricky business. Here are a few best practices:
- Prepare. Find the video you want to show ahead of time. Be sure the video is directly related to the content of your lesson. Try not show a video or section of a video much longer than 2.7 minutes, and this is the average length of time spent watching a single internet video.
- Safe-guard. If you copy the URL into your presentation, be sure to also look under the sub-heading “embed” and UNCHECK the box next to “Show suggested videos when the video finishes.” YouTube might suggest videos that are not appropriate for teenage students, and you do not want those popping up on the large screen.
- Double-check. Make sure the classroom has a working internet connection so you can stream videos online. There are ways to download and play videos offline from the computer, but this is arguably an illegal practice. Double-check if the content is copyrighted or if the owner has given permission to viewers to download videos. If you are worried about Google hunting you down for piracy, have an non-YouTube back-up plan ready just in case.
In order to remain relatable and fresh, lesson plans should incorporate the same online resources that students use. However, educators have a responsibility to teach students which videos to view and why. Avoiding online content may be detrimental to students who have been raised in an increasingly technological world, while including and directly addressing online content enhances students ability to seek out reliable internet resources on their own.
Brewis, M. (2013, January 14). Is it illegal to download youtube videos? Tech Advisor.
Corinna, H. (2013). 9:15-10:15 Keynote: Don’t fear the router: How the internet can save sex ed. In National Sex Ed Conference.
Jones, R.K., & Biddlecom, A.E. (2011). Is the internet filling the sexual health information gap for teens? An exploratory study [Abstract]. Journal of Health Communication, 16(2), 112-23. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2010.535112
Kosner, A.W. (2013, January 26). Watch out Facebook, with Google+ at #2 and Youtube at #3, Google, Inc. could catch up. Forbes.
Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013). Teens and technology 2013: Main findings. Pew Research Internet Project.
Weinreich, H., Obendorf, H., Herder, E., & Mayer, M. (2008). Not quite the average: An empirical study of web use. ACM Transactions on the Web, 2(1).