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Can the Internet be used to improve sexual health awareness in web-wise young people?
  1. P C Goold, MB BS, MRCP, Specialist Registrar in Genitourinary Medicine (GUM)1,
  2. M Ward, RGN, Health Advisor in GUM2 and
  3. E M Carlin, MB ChB, FRCP, Consultant in GUM3
  1. Department of GUM, Nottingham City Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK
  2. Department of GUM, King's Mill Hospital, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, Sutton in Ashfield, UK
  3. Department of GUM, Nottingham City Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK and Department of GUM, King's Mill Hospital, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, Sutton in Ashfield, UK
  1. Correspondence Dr P C Goold, Department of Genitourinary Medicine, Nottingham City Hospital NHS Trust, Hucknall Road, Nottingham NG5 1PB, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 115 969 1169 ext 46746. Fax: +44 (0) 115 962 7684. E-mail: pennygoold{at}aol.com

Abstract

Objectives To assess Internet use amongst young people to determine whether it would be a practical way to provide sex education and information.

Methods Year 10 students (aged 14-15 years) from North Nottinghamshire schools were asked to participate in focus groups to discuss the Internet. A series of predefined questions were directed to the whole group to generate debate. Areas explored included: Internet access and site; frequency and purpose of Internet use; websites visited; ideas for a genitourinary medicine (GUM) website. Responses were recorded by a hand count or as individual verbal responses.

Results Thirteen focus groups were held involving 287 students of approximately equal sex distribution. All had access to Internet facilities at school and 224 (78.0%) had access elsewhere. Access was at least once a week by 178 (62.0%) mostly for e-mail, games, chatlines and homework. No one accessed for health information. One hundred and seventy-nine (62.4%) participants said they would use a GUM website. A 'question line' where they could e-mail questions to a health care professional was of interest to 202 (70.4%) participants.

Conclusions The Internet would be a practical and accessible way of delivering sexual health education to young people, particularly if it is incorporated into activities and websites they enjoy.

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  • Accepted November 14, 2002.

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