Keep Sex Ed Free

Gogetinfo.com is a new service for teenagers offering information via mobile phones about Abuse, Bullying, How to use a condom, Contraception, Emergency Contraception, Am I normal?, Pressure to have sex, I think I’m pregnant, Self-harm, STIs.

So far so good, young people need easy access to information and many young people have mobile phones now. However this service is not free to the end user. Young people are being charged 50p (plus standard messaging rate) for a download for each topic.

If a young person wanted to know about all of the above topics it would cost them £5 plus the cost of 10 texts. Although some local authorities have paid for bundles of downloads that young people can access for free.

This service for young people has been supported, promoted and tweeted by some of the leading sexual health and youth charities in the UK: some of whom I respect and trust. FPA, Brook, NSPCC, YouthNet and Youthworks Consulting. The Department of Health has also been consulted.

I’ve not downloaded any of these ‘products’ so I have no idea about how good the information is. I have no idea about how much profit the company are making who are providing this service http://www.sensecds.com/ColesMcConnell_SENSE/sensehome.htm I have no idea about how they intend to monitor and evaluate the service and disseminate their findings. All vital questions.

What I do know is that charging young people for sexual health and relationships information is unethical and in my view completely out of order. In my opinion, everyone involved in promoting and supporting this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The charities that are supporting this are giving it credibility but they are also putting a price on knowledge.

Young people have a right to accurate high quality sex and relationships information for free. There is of course a cost implication involved in providing this information (although I have chosen to provide sex and relationships information and advice for free and without funding at bishUK.com – currently averaging 1000 – 2000 hits per day), but this should be met from government departments, PCTs, local authorities or through sponsorship from companies.

I would never, ever charge a young person for information and advice that I believe they have a right to.

If you agree with me, follow me on twitter @bishtraining and follow the hashtag #keepsexedfree

Comments below welcome.

Justin

13 thoughts on “Keep Sex Ed Free

  • Having read your tweets, I thought I would have a look at what you offer and I was shocked to find you charge £625 for a training resource on porn, £5.50 for a leaflet for parents and £50 to subscribe to your website/blog service!!!!??? As a parent I will happily pay 50p for my kids to get really good info on their phone and avoid the perils of the Internet. Like most parents, I pay the phone bill not my kids.
    Sarah (Teacher and Mum of 2)

    • Dear Sarah

      Just to clarify…

      I offer a training course around porn for £625 for up to 16 participants. This is almost £300 cheaper than equivalent courses from other orgs.

      My porn resource costs £4.50 or £10.50 which is very cheap compared to other sexual health resources.

      My parent pack for £5.50 is for a total of 22 pages of illustrated material. I also do not have a subscription fee.

      This pays for bishuk.com accessible from phones which is all free to parents and teens.

      Justin

      PS I noticed today (18.01.11) that you shared the exact IP address as Neilsen McConnell below. A coincidence? Thanks for blatantly misrepresenting my fees anyway.

  • Dear Justin
    Thank you very much for highlighting the issue of free sex education for us, it has been generating lots of positive feedback and publicity. Hopefully with your help and the help of others like you we can generate enough sponsorship to provide this service for free to all teenagers.

    However, I must take issue with the way you have been conducting yourself. You freely admit you know nothing about us as a company or our long term aims therefore it is rather disingenuous of you to call us unethical and attack us in this way. You of course have every right to say what you like about the service but you have no right to personally attack the hardworking people behind this project in such a vindictive way. Lots of teenagers have been involved with GoGetInfo from the start and you are being disrespectful to their efforts.

    We all need to pull together to ensure young people have the information they need in whatever form that may take, especially in the current economic climate.

    If you wish to discuss anything about GoGetInfo and its contributors with us personally we would be more than happy to listen but please consider that publically slandering us is not an adult or responsible way to conduct yourself.

    Yours sincerely
    Neilsen McConnell
    Managing Director
    GoGetInfo

    • Hi Neilsen
      I’m a bit surprised at your response. I don’t see Justin doing anything other than asking reasonable questions and raising concerns that many educators and practitioners share.

      Given the ongoing concern that has been raised by groups like the Libel Reform Campaign about how companies have been using allegations of slander and libel to silence critics, it is sad to see them being made here. I am sure it was not your intention to mention this as a means to silence questioning. If you are interested in learning more about this particular issue (which is becoming increasingly important in health/education) I’d be happy to share information with you.

      As someone who also agrees that sex education and information for young people should be free (in the UK and internationally) I agree that we should be working together.

      However, as I’m sure you’ll know there are countless programmes already offering advice and information, most on an open access or not for profit basis. Or where costs for consultants/trainers etc are met by other organisations (like PCTs), never by young people themselves.

      It is the fact you are charging for access to information that is already freely available elsewhere that is causing concern.

      You are right that people may not be aware of the history of your organisation. Perhaps you could post a information on your site detailing things like: how you established your organisation, why you decided to focus on this area, what told you that the approach you are taking was the best way forward, how you evaluated and assessed the quality of the advice you will be providing, the way you engaged young people, the evidence you consulted to create your advice packages, and how that fits with existing awareness of working with young people in this area.

      If you are unsure about how to set this information out models from organisations like Dipex http://www.youthhealthtalk.org/Sexual_Health_of_Young_People (they have also published research based on the work they completed with young people to set up their information site)

      While I think it is understandable you may feel annoyed by criticism, I don’t think it is enough to say because you had good intentions or involved young people that you are immune from being questioned. Unfortunately many of us have seen projects set up internationally that have involved young people or are based on good will but have still promoted misinformation about sex, or adopted models that have excluded many young people they are aimed at helping. Hence our concerns.

      It is easy for discussions in this area to become overly personal and negative. It would be a pity if it happened here. It is not unreasonable for people to ask probing questions about your conduct and content. In fact I’d be anxious about anyone accepting at face value any initiative aimed at young people without asking lots of questions about it. The wellbeing and rights of young people are too important to do anything different.

    • Dear Neilson,

      I think that it is fair to say that people need to make money and running a mobile phone service obviously incurs costs to the provider. I don’t however see why the information cannot also be available for free via the website. If, as you state, the ideal would be for all young people to have free access to the information that you provide, then put it on your website. It costs almost nothing to do so, as evidenced by the many individuals who do just that, including Bish.

    • Dear Neilsen

      Thanks for your not so thinly veiled legal threats.

      I haven’t said a thing about your company, your staff or the young people that you have worked with. I’ve said that charging young people for vital information about sex and relationships is wrong and unethical. This is my focus. How much you profit from this, or how lovely you all might be in real life is secondary.

      I think that any web project for young people about sexual health would have, as a minimum, clear links for young people to find their local free and confidential sexual health service. That would be right, proper and, dare I say it, ethical: where’s yours?

      Best wishes

      Justin

    • Hi Neilsen,

      I’m wondering how involved the young people were or are. At what point did young people become or stop being involved? Saying “lots of teenagers have been involved with GoGetInfo from the start” isn’t enough. Many organisations involve young people on a very tokenistic level; it looks good to “involve” the very people you are targeting. I’m not saying this is what you’ve done by any means but you haven’t demonstrated why, what, when, where and how young people were involved. Something as simple as this will help others to understand the background of your company.

      I have text GoGetInfo to receive information on a couple of subjects. Due to my not having internet access (unlimited or otherwise) on my phone, I typed the address into my computer and viewed the information and video. At 13/14 I would have used my mum’s phone to text and, not being able to access the internet on her phone, entered the address into my computer… or I would have searched for the information / advice I needed on the internet.

      I’m now 22 and times have changed: iPhone’s, BlackBerry’s and unlimited internet access exist. Does that mean that texting a number and viewing the information and video will be easy? No. Many young people will have “regular” phones with either no or limited internet access, it will need to be added. How do you support those young people?

  • GotGetInfo,
    I totally agree with Justin about this. When planning to provide a service the aims and objectives of that service must have been discussed and agreed. The idea that young people would have to pay to receive information must have also been discussed and agreed. It’s very difficult to imagine that conversation taking place and still believe that young people are at the centre of your service. Personally, I would rather work for free than take a penny from the very young people I am trying to support. Bish clearly also takes this stance and I support him 100%. Please don’t misinterpret his passion, and dedication/commitment to helping young people, as vindictiveness…
    P.s. I hope the teenagers who were involved are also getting a fair cut

  • I’m confused!!
    The argument here seems to be about providing sex education free to all teenagers. I’ve taken the time to look at the go get info service and it seems to provide really good information in a unique way. Surely we should be supporting this organisation and lobbying to have it supported so that the end user doesn’t have to pay.
    Or is the agenda here – ‘we want free sex education, but only if it’s ours!’

  • I’m sorry if I sound really thick but I still don’t get your point? You stated on your blog, and I quote, “I’ve not downloaded any of these ‘products’ so I have no idea about how good the information is.” and then you put on twitter, and I quote again, “this is unethical bullshit.” So how do you know what they are selling is freely available?
    Also isn’t this a lot of hot air about nothing? Surely at the end of the day this is about free choice – the people will decide – if they want to use the service they will and if they don’t want to pay they won’t – or am I missing something!

    • Hi Sarah

      It’s unethical to charge. Unless you are holding some secret information about (eg) how to use condoms that no-one else knows about then I’d be very surprised if it’s not freely available everywhere.

      By the way I think it would be ethical and transparent for you to say that you work for the company behind this, or at least emailing from a machine that uses their server and IP address. (IP: 212.159.97.94 , osx-server.coles-mcconnell.com)

      Bye!

      Justin

    • Hi Sarah,

      “So how do you know what they are selling is freely available?”

      From my point of view, that’s exactly the point. How do you know? How do you know what information you will be provided with? How do you know the information will answer your question(s)? How do you know you will know what to do after reading the information (feel more “normal”, where to go, who to talk to etc.)?

      The crux of the matter is that nobody knows what information GoGetInfo will provide you with. Is it right, fair or ethical that a young person has to take that chance so that a company can make money?

      With this in mind, I find another of your sentences quite staggering: “a lot of hot air about nothing”.

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