Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Three months ago, 15-year-old Lin Nakayenze (not real name), a senior two student was curious about sex and went searching for answers on the internet. She says her one question- ‘What is sex?’ raised more questions than answers provided.
“At school and at home we are told that sex is bad for young children. Yet Google was telling me that sex is good,” Nakayenze said. Our reporter punched the same question in the same search engine and got a number of answers or suggestions.
The answers ranged from the definition of sex, types of sex, why sex is good and how the body feels good during sex. Also available was information on how to have sex. The search engine also suggested instructional sex videos on YouTube.
The videos varied from ‘what is new in Sexual therapy’ to ‘Benefits of having sex’ to ‘Sexual violence’. With just one click, an entire encyclopedia of sex was accessible to Nakayenze. According to adolescent sex experts, many children are exposed to sex at early ages due to what they can access using phones.
They say while the internet is a bank of knowledge, it is a tool that exposes unmonitored teenagers to a lot of things that they don’t know pornography inclusive. Susan Ajok, the Executive Director Straight Talk Foundation, says often teens are led astray because they rely on the internet to get information because they are not guided by parents.
Ajox says parents need to become more involved in parenting. She says it is important for them to monitor what their children are doing and give them the answers they need instead of leaving them to rely on the internet and social media.
The 2017/18 Uganda National Information Technology Survey report shows that mobile phones are the most used means by which young people aged 18-26 access the internet. It shows that 15 percent of the population own smart phones that they use to access information compared to computers and other devices.
Henry Semakula, the Assistant Commissioner of Health and HIV Education at the Education Ministry, says many school going children are endangered because the sexuality education they get from various sources is questionable. He says that some education partners have resorted to web based sexuality education, which poses a danger to what children learn about their sexuality when in school.
According to Ajok, the internet is a danger to teenagers due to an existing information gap where sex education is concerned. In 2018, the Education Ministry launched the National Sexuality Education Framework that is supposed to answer some of the questions that teenagers might have about sexual health.
The framework was criticized by religious leaders who opposed the way it would be implemented using teachers. They also wanted to be consulted about the topics addressed in the frame work. Ismael Mulindwa, the Commissioner Basic Education, says that people should support the framework instead of criticize it because it is a better source of information about sexual health compared to the internet.
“We are parents and we know what kind of information is appropriate for all age groups. And the framework is based on this. The purpose of the framework is to pass on guided appropriate information unlike other sources of information. It is age appropriate,” Mulindwa said.
Parents have been advised to block sites that might be a sea of unwanted knowledge to children. They have been advised to use child friendly sites such as ‘Kiddle’ instead of ‘Google’. When URN punched ‘what is sex’ in Kiddle, no answer was given. We were asked to try again.