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Cumberland Sexual Health Centre expands reach with social media

OXFORD, N.S. – Life can be confusing at the best of times. That confusion is multiplied ten-fold for teenagers learning about sex.

By using the tool of social media, Rene Ross, executive director of the Sexual Health Centre of Cumberland County, helps bring clarity to that confusion.

“Just last week we exceeded one hundred thousand views on our videos,” said Ross, the guest speaker on March 9 at International Women’s Day celebrations at the Capitol Theatre in Oxford.

Ross talked about the differences between learning about sex today compared to learning about sex when she was a teenager growing up in Springhill in the 80’s.

“I had questions, and it was 1988, and we didn’t have the internet then,” said Ross. “So I did what most other kids my age did in the 80’s and I learned about sexual health from television.”

Degrassi Junior High was her main source of information.

“Degrassi Junior High probably helped me unpack the most, from teen pregnancy to having to deal with peer pressure.”

But The Golden Girls was also a source of information.

“I learned about the importance of safer sex from The Golden Girls when Blanch and Dorothy and Rose go and buy condoms and there’s a price check.”

Teenagers today have an large array of outlets where they access information about sex, turning to Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Google, and pornography websites.

“Fourteen per cent of youth are learning about sexual health from pornography,” said Ross. “And four per cent of youth are learning about sexual health from their parents and from educators.”

Ross says a recent study says that that 68 per cent of people learn about sexual health from Google, followed by Web MD, and then facebook.

The Sexual Health Centre often teaches sex education to students in Grade 6.

“I asked one of the Grade 6 classes last week how many were on social media, how many have accounts,” said Ross. “It has been consistent for the last couple of years. Out of the hundreds of elementary school students I work with, at least 90 per cent of them are on social media.”

Ross says kids aren’t reading brochures anymore, and that’s why it’s important to have safe, accurate online programing for kids.

“This is why we identify technology and sexual health education as a priority for programming in our outreach at the Sexual Health Centre,” said Ross. “There is a great potential with technology, and the internet and social media can actually allow us to educate and support each other, while creating leadership opportunities.”

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