Children need more than an app to learn about sex

Photo Credit: Phoebe Lim

A new app called “Clementine Wants to Know” is being marketed towards parents as an aid to help teach their children about sex. At first, this seems like a great idea. The sooner kids know about sex the sooner the stigma surrounding open conversations about sex will be over. Win-win for everyone, right?

I don’t think so. By using an app to teach kids about sex as a way to replace “the talk,” parents continue the cycle of conversations regarding sexual taboo.

I will admit that talking to younger children about anything other than toys and cartoons can be uncomfortable. But shouldn’t a parent feel comfortable having an honest conversation with their children about any asked question? Honest questions deserve honest answers, not only as a way to teach children that deception is wrong, but as a way to create more open discussion surrounding difficult topics, including sex.

Although less taboo than it once was, sexual discussion can still be awkward. This is why dialogue is so important; the more something is discussed, the less awkward it becomes — and the sooner these conversations start, the better.

Although an app would teach Jimmy where babies come from, he would not learn how to talk about it.

Why, then, is a parent using an app to teach kids about sex a bad thing? By relying on technology, parents remove their responsibility. Hand little Jimmy an iPad and say, “here you go, son.” Although Jimmy will learn where babies come from, he will not learn how to talk about it. A parental conversation also allows an opportunity for Jimmy to ask questions that he felt the app may have not answered well enough.

While using technology or other resources can be beneficial for one’s learning, it needs to be used as a tool to propel the conversation and not to replace it. We don’t need to giggle nervously each time we say “penis or “vagina.” The only way to become comfortable with these words is if we use them repeatedly in a serious context. If using an app helps remove some of the awkward feelings that a child has about using these words then that is fine, but it should also be used to encourage parents to be more comfortable in using these words as well.

Using an app as a tool to assist parents in talking to and teaching children about sex is a great idea. By removing the ‘game’ element from the app, and turning it into an interactive book that requires parental participation (perhaps through having to enter a passcode or using the built in fingerprint scanner), the advantages that come from using technology to learn can be harnessed, while still encouraging parents to have the actual conversation about sex.

If you are or will one day be a parent, make the commitment to use your words, not your phone. Talk to your kids and encourage them to talk to you, and you’ll create healthy, open relationship.