How to: tell if the internet is giving you true information about having sex


If you fact check what you hear about sex while riding the P2P (which we very highly recommend), most likely you turn to the internet because it is private and quick. However, like the information you hear on the street or from friends, it is not uncommon for information on websites to be outdated or inaccurate.

When you look up sexual health information on the internet ask the following questions before you believe or try what you read:

1. When was the last time this site was updated? 

If the site was not updated recently, try to find a newer source.  Statistics can change from year to year, and updated information may be easier to understand and more accurate.

2.  Is that it?

Avoid websites that provide simplistic answers to sexual health questions. Often if a website provides a minimal amount of information, it may be omitting valuable instructions or information relevant to your biological sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  It may also not disclose all of the resources available that you need to safely perform a sexual act.

To avoid these limitations and make the safest decisions, get multiple perspectives by visiting a few different sites and using multiple search terms.

3. Who wrote this?

If the page is published by another university (with a URL ending in .edu), a valid health organization like Planned Parenthood, or a government agency (with a URL ending in .gov), then chances are the information is correct.  Message boards and advice columns will rarely provide factual information. You can use advanced search in Google to specify that you want results from pages that end in .gov or .edu.

If the page is written by an individual, double-check their credentials and the sources they provide  before following their advice. Usually there is a link at the bottom of the page that says “about us.”  Not everyone with a webpage is a true expert or thinking of your best interests.

4. Does information on the site sound reasonably accurate?

If it does not, then you should not do it.  You can better assess the accuracy of sexual health information on the internet by knowing the basics.  Refresh your knowledge about the type of sexual activity you want to have and the sexual health services that are recommended before searching for specific, and perhaps unique, sexual health topics you are curious about.

Here are some sites where you can refresh your sexual health knowledge :

Contraception
http://bedsider.org/

http://www.arhp.org/methodmatch/

Medical Details About STDs and Testing
http://www.avert.org/std.htm

http://www.itsyoursexlife.com

Social Situations, Relationships, and Safer Sex
http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/

http://www.scarleteen.com

5.  Is this site asking me to buy a product?

If a website tells you that your sexual health and pleasure depend on buying a product then it probably is not providing the best information.  Check with your health care provider before buying a product, especially medications, from a website.  Chances are you probably do not need it to have safer sex, and it may even hurt you.

That said, if you are curious about a certain branded type of contraception (e.g., Mirena the IUD or NuvaRing, a hormonal birth control) do visit their website to learn more about the product.  A visit to a website can help you formulate questions to ask a health care provider.  However, it is imperative that you talk with a health care provider about which methods fit your reproductive goals and are medically best for your body.

Hopefully these tips will help you make sure that the sexual health information you get from the internet is factual.  However, if you ever have any sexual health questions contact Campus Health at 919.966.3658!  You can make an appointment to talk about your concerns confidentially.

More information about understanding health information on the internet can be found here.

What are your thoughts about looking up sexual health information on the internet?  Comment below, on FB, or Twitter!

2 thoughts on “How to: tell if the internet is giving you true information about having sex

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