On the Loose: A Guide to Online Life for Post-Secondary Students supports young adults who are experiencing both new freedoms and challenges in their post- secondary life.

In this lesson, students learn to question media representations of gender, relationships and sexuality. After a brief “myth busting” quiz about relationships in the media and a reminder of the constructed nature of media products, the teacher leads the class in an analysis of the messages about gender, sex and relationships communicated by beer and alcohol ads. Students analyze the messages communicated by their favourite media types and then contrast it with their own experience.

We know that young people are accessing explicit content online. We know less about how this exposure is impacting their attitudes and behaviours. If kids are finding accurate and good quality information about sexual health or healthy relationships, that’s a positive thing. However, if the bulk of their exposure is to pornography, then they may be receiving distorted messages about relationships and sexual behaviour.

It is natural for adolescents to be curious about sex: MediaSmarts’ research suggests that one in ten grades 7- 11 students use the Internet to look for information about sexuality. Forty percent of boys look for pornography online, with 28% looking for it daily or weekly. The problem with pornography is that it is an unhealthy response to a healthy concern.

There’s a long-standing relationship between sex and the Internet. As far as back the 1980s, Usenet and local bulletin board systems were used to share pornographic text files and crude (in both senses) graphics, and people have been using digital media to form and carry out online relationships at least as long. However, just as estimates of how much online traffic and content is made up of sexual material tend to be exaggerated[1], our new report – Sexuality and Romantic Relationships in the Digital Age – from MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World survey of 5,436 students, shows that for Canadian youth, sexuality and romantic relationships play a fairly small part of their online lives.

To introduce the issue of pornography for classroom discussion. To help students understand the difficulty in determining the sometimes very fine lines between erotica, freedom of expression, and sexual exploitation and to familiarize them with guidelines for making these distinctions.

Students will consider the use of the Internet as a research tool and learn how to use search engines more effectively. They then apply these new found skills to investigating popular myths about sexuality and contraception.

Young people today are exposed to a plethora of sexual imagery in media – both online and off. This section looks at potential impacts of exposure to pornography on the development of healthy sexuality and offers tips for protecting young children and educating older kids.