The teens getting their sex education from YouTubers

Youtuber Hannah Witton has more than 400,000 followers.
Youtuber Hannah Witton has more than 400,000 followers. Photo: Instagram/Hannah Witton

Children are being exposed to sex at an earlier age. Fortunately, Australia is starting to recognise this and sex education has come a long way. However, it's still behind other countries and doesn't cover all the ins and outs, if you'll excuse the pun. 

Teens are keen for more information, particularly around topics that are still considered taboo and absent from sex education curriculums. 

Topics such as masturbation and understanding what a vagina looks like are being searched, and YouTube is becoming increasingly popular as a first point of call. 

Sex and relationships Youtuber and author, Hannah Witton, 26, is one of a few leading the way in online sex education aimed at teens. 

With over 400,000 followers, Witton is a popular go to for teens who are curious about things that they may not want to ask their parents. Witton satisfies this curiosity by answering those silent questions about sex toys, masturbation and the benefits of soft porn. 

Her video 10 Masturbation Hacks has attracted 1.4million views, The Benefits of Porn has attracted 235k views, and Sexual Experimentation has attracted 128k views. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Witton said, "I genuinely feel no awkwardness at all. It was one of the reasons I felt like it would be a good idea to start making videos like this, because I know some people don't feel comfortable talking about these things. If I have a platform and I'm OK talking about them, I can use that platform for good."

When asked about her masturbation videos, she says, "For some reason it's still taboo. A lot of people either don't want to admit it's happening or feel too ashamed to talk about it. There is a general shame and stigma around that topic, in terms of actually doing it but also talking about it."

Witton's sex education is not solely based on pleasure. In fact, her vlogs cover other topics that teens may be uncomfortable talking about with parents. 

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Examples include, The Morning After Pill, My First Smear Test and Trying a Menstrual Cup For The First Time. 

But what do parents think about their teens being educated in such a way?

When I asked, the general consensus was that parents were not comfortable with this. However, some acknowledged that there are some sex topics that they wouldn't feel completely comfortable talking about. Unavoidably, they understood that their teens may turn to other sources of information. 

Cath Hakanson is a sex educator and founder of Sex Ed Rescue, a service that helps parents to talk more naturally with their kids about sex, without feeling awkward or embarrassed.

She tells me that sex education through YouTube is not ideal, but is inevitable because of the lack of sex education in Australian schools. 

"Video is the medium that attracts teens, and with YouTube being the leader in the field, it's naturally the place that teens will go,' she says. "There are some really well-known vloggers who provide very factual and straightforward advice covering sex education topics that are avoided in school."

"I think that until more comprehensive sex education is provided in schools, this may be the future of sex education for teens whether we like it or not." 

In an ideal world, teens would be educated by someone who can provide them with accurate and age-appropriate information, with the opportunity to ask questions and explore topics in depth.

Topics such as masturbation may require more philosophical exploration about why you would masturbate and what to do if your church or religion believes it's sinful. 

"Teens are no more curious than we were when we were teens ourselves. What's changed, is that it's now easier for teens to find answers about sex," says Hakanson. "We live in a sexualised world where sex is used to sell clothing, cars, shoes, and even food, so our kids have this to deal with too."

YouTube can only provide so much information so, while teens may be learning about techniques for personal or sexual relations, they won't necessarily be learning about healthy relationships. 

Of course, there's also the reality that porn is easily accessible on line and working out the good from the bad is hard. 

"I think that watching good education content on YouTube relating to things such as technique may be beneficial, but only if it coincides with discussions that are being had at school or home, particularly about relationships, respect and consent," says Hakanson.

Subsequently, she adds that parents need to be having discussions about sex and share their related values and beliefs too. 

"Tell stories, add your perspective, ask questions and be approachable," she advises. "Teens want to be able to talk to you about sex, so see school sex education as an opportunity to talk to them about what they've learnt, and share your viewpoint."

"Parents need to be aware that it isn't their role to teach their teens technique. It isn't the sort of information that a healthy teen will want from a parent anyhow. For parents, it's more about being approachable and open to conversation with their teen about everything and having lots of natural ongoing conversations."