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By Laura Maltby Wednesday 31 October 2012 Updated: 02/11 09:10
A WEBSITE designed to help underage teens in Warwickshire better understand sex and relationships, branded “perverse” by critics, has been defended by council chiefs.
The Respect yourself website and smartphone app – aimed at children aged 13 and over – was created by a team of youngsters from Warwickshire Youth Council, who worked in partnership with NHS Warwickshire, Coventry University and Warwickshire County Council to provide help and information to teenagers.
Modelled on the Dutch approach to sex education, the website features pictures of a naked man and woman with their erogenous zones highlighted, a 'sextionary' defining a variety of slang terms and a question and answer section.
The frequently asked questions section features answers to questions posed by teenagers ranging from 'How does the contraceptive pill work?' to 'How do you deal with being bisexual?'
And young people thinking about losing their virginity are directed to a page entitled 'Am I Ready?' with a list of six questions designed to help them decide.
But the £24,000 project - paid for by an NHS West Midlands research fund - has come under fire from Leamington-based antiabortion charity Life who argue the language is inappropriate, adding the site does not have young people’s best interests at heart and it promotes dangerous, irresponsible and even illegal behaviour.
A spokesperson for the charity said: "Despite the website branding, there is barely any mention of respect and no exploration of what it means to act respectfully towards yourself and others.
"Search terms such as commitment, intimacy, faithfulness and long-term come back with No Results Found - it’s equivalent to a stranger talking to children about sex in great detail without parents’ knowledge except in this case, the stranger is funded by the taxpayer."
But speaking on behalf of Warwickshire County Council, Respect Yourself project manager Amy Danahay, defended the site.
She said: “The internet has changed how young people find out about sex. It would be naïve to think that many young people are not regularly accessing far more explicit material and if we want to give them access to relevant information, we have to move with the times.
"It is far better that we provide accurate information for them which is easily accessible and monitored by professionals.
"The website is based on research into how this information is presented in the Netherlands where the rate of teenage pregnancy is over five times lower than it is in England and contraception is much more widely used.
“Clearly their approach has worked and we would be wrong if we neglected to take lessons from that. We have every reason to expect that it will have excellent results in tackling a very serious problem for young people in England.”
She added young people had been consulted throughout the development process and the language used was appropriate for the target age group to communicate clear public health messages.
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