Skip to main content

Left to their own devices: Disciplining youth discourse on sexuality education electronic bulletin boards

Abstract

In contrast to the strict regulation of school-based sexuality education, Internet-based sexuality education has virtually free rein over its content and pedagogical methods. One common feature of sexuality education websites is an electronic bulletin board system (BBS) that facilitates peer education and exchange. A grounded-theory study and analysis of the BBSs sponsored by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and by the Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS) were performed, and many thematic similarities and points of divergence between the respective BBSs emerged. Although both organizations advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, the BBS on PPFA’s Teenwire website is moderated by adults, whereas CPS does not moderate discussion on its BBS. Analysis indicated that this subtle exertion of age-based authority played a role in shaping and censoring BBS discourse. These data are used to highlight the capacities of youth, critique age-based hegemonic practices, and support youth-positive sexuality education policies and practices.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Aggleton, P., & Campbell, C. (2000). Working with young people—towards an agenda for sexual health. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 15, 283–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barak, A., & Fischer, W.A. (2001). Toward an Internet-driven, theoretically-based, innovative approach to sex education. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 324–332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bargh, J.A., McKenna, K.Y.A., & Fitzsimmons, G. (2002). Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the Internet. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 33–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bay-Cheng, L.Y. (2001). SexEd.com: Values and norms in web-based sexuality education. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 241–251.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bay-Cheng, L.Y. (2003). The trouble of teen sex: The construction of adolescent sexuality through school-based sexuality education. Sex Education, 3, 61–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borzekowski, D.L.G., & Rickert, V.I. (2001). Adolescents, the Internet, and health: Issues of access and content. Applied Developmental Psychology, 22, 49–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brydon-Miller, M. (2001). Education, research, and action: Theory and methods of participatory action research. In D. L. Tolman & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), From subjects to subjectivities: A handbook of interpretive and participatory methods (pp. 76–89). New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Charmaz, K. (1983). The grounded theory method: An explication and interpretation. In R. Emerson (Ed.), Contemporary field research (pp. 109–126). Boston: Little, Brown.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chenitz, C.W., & Swanson, J. (1990). From practice to grounded theory. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coalition for Positive Sexuality. (1997). Just say yes. Washington, DC: Coalition for Positive Sexuality

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, A., Boies, S., Maheu, M., & Greenfield, D. (1999). Sexuality and the Internet: The next sexual revolution. In F. Muscarella and L. Szuchman (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on human sexuality (pp. 519–545). New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elia, J.P. (2000). Democratic sexuality education: A departure from sexual ideologies and traditional schooling. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25, 122–129.

    Google Scholar 

  • Finn, J.L. (2001). Text and turbulence: Representing adolescence as pathology in the human services. Childhood, 8, 167–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flowers-Coulson, P.A., Kushner, M.A., & Bankowski, S. (2000). The information is out there, but is anyone getting it? Adolescent misconceptions about sexuality education and reproductive health and the use of the Internet to get answers. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25, 178–188.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forrest, S., Strange, V., & Oakley, A. (2002). A comparison of students’ evaluations of a peer-delivered sex education programme and teacher-led provision. Sex Education, 2, 195–214.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenfield, P.M., & Subrahmanyam, K. (2003). Online discourse in a teen chatroom: New codes and new modes of coherence in a visual medium. Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 713–738.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, G.S. (1904). Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion, and education (Vols. 1-2). New York: D. Appleton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holland, S. (2001). Representing children in child protection assessments. Childhood, 8, 322–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lerner, R.M., Dowling, E.M., & Anderson, P.M. (2003). Positive youth development: Thriving as the basis of personhood and civil society. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 172–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lesko, N. (1996). Denaturalizing adolescence: The politics of contemporary representations. Youth and Society, 28, 139–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lesko, N. (2001). Act your age! A cultural construction of adolescence. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Males, M. (1996). The scapegoat generation: American’s war on adolescents. Monroe, ME: Common Courage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milburn, K. (1995). A critical review of peer education with young people with special reference to sexual health. Health Education Research, 10, 407–420.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Millner, V.S., & Kiser, J.D. (2002). Sexual information and Internet resources. Family Journal, 10, 234–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moran, J.P. (2000). Teaching sex: The shaping of adolescence in the 20th century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, K.M. (2001). Unsolicited narratives from the Internet: A rich source of qualitative data. Qualitative Health Research, 11, 706–714.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Roffman, D.M., Shannon, D., & Dwyer, C. (1997). Adolescents, sexual health, and the Internet: Possibilities, prospects, and challenges for educators. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 22, 49–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sex-ed. group decries CDC & USDA removal of links to group’s web site. (2002, March 11). Retrieved June 13, 2004, from Online Policy Group website: http://www.onlinepolicy.org/action/cpsrelease.shtml

  • Singer R. Kelly pleads not guilty to child porn. (2004, February 3). Retrieved January 10, 2005, from Cable News Network website: http://archives. cnn.com/2002/LAW/06/26/rkelly/index.html

  • Smith, M.U., & DiClemente, R.J. (2000). STAND: Apeer educator training curriculum for sexual risk reduction in the rural South. Preventive Medicine, 30, 441–449.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stern, S.E., & Handel, A.D. (2001). Sexuality and mass media: The historical context of psychology’s reaction to sexuality on the Internet. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 283–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutton, M.J., Brown, J.D., Wilson, K.M., & Klein, J.D. (2002). Shaking the tree of knowledge for forbidden fruit: Where adolescents learn about sexuality and contraception. In J. D. Brown, J. R. Steele, & K. Walsh-Childers (Eds.), Sexual teens, sexual media: Investigating media’s influence on adolescent sexuality (pp. 25–55). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suzuki, L.K., & Calzo, J.P. (2004, March). Giving and receiving peer advice online: An examination of online teen health bulletin boards. Paper presented at the biennial conference of the Society for Research on Adolescence.

  • Tiggemann, M., & Kenyon, S.J. (1998). The hairlessness norm: The removal of body hair in women. Sex Roles, 39, 873–885.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turner, G., & Shepherd, J. (1999). A method in search of a theory: Peer education and health promotion. Health Education Research, 14, 235–247.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ungar, M.T. (2000). The myth of peer pressure. Adolescence, 35, 167–180.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wallace, P. (1999). The psychology of the Internet. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whatley, M.H., & Henken, E.R. (2000). Did you hear about the girl who ... ? Contemporary legends, folklore, and human sexuality. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laina Y. Bay-Cheng.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bay-Cheng, L.Y. Left to their own devices: Disciplining youth discourse on sexuality education electronic bulletin boards. Sex Res Soc Policy 2, 37–50 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.1.37

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.1.37

Key words

  • peer and education
  • Internet
  • adolescence
  • youth and development