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Straight Talk Aimed Squarely at Teenagers

November 19, 2001|BENEDICT CAREY

When it comes to health information, the Web shortchanges some of its most devoted and fluent users--teenagers. There are plenty of chat rooms for older kids, and there are good sites for parents of teenagers. But attempts to engage middle-and high-schoolers on urgent health issues such as birth control, violence and drug use often fall short. Some sites discuss teen problems in the abstract, with statistics; others approach self-parody in their attempt to "speak their language." Here are a couple of resources to help older kids find straight talk about health concerns.

World College Health

http://www.worldcollegehealth.org

Though established as a resource for college students, this site is just as relevant for many middle-and high-school students. Most essays and features are written by experts, and they hit all the bases--body image, depression, sex and sexually transmitted diseases, fitness, grief, learning disabilities, even penis enlargement. The site's strength is in the variety of approaches to each topic. Information on STDs, for example, includes an explanatory discussion of the specific diseases, with details on transmission risk and symptoms, and an anonymous essay by a Cornell student titled "How Dramamine Saved Me From an STD." The mental health section includes book excerpts, as well as a discussion of the biology behind depression. The site is incomplete in some areas--the fitness area was "under construction," and links to more in-depth Web sites are scarce--but it's readable, interesting and authoritative without being tedious.

Adolescent Directory On-Line

http://education.indiana.edu/cas/adol/adol.html

Compiled by the Center for Adolescent Studies at Indiana University, this is a directory of teen health links that address everything from obesity to pregnancy to parents' divorce. Teen health information is scattered over the Web and often elusive--sites surface and disappear often--which is what makes the Indiana pages valuable. Under the category of sexuality, for instance, the directory includes not only a link to Planned Parenthood but to sites such as Puberty 101, the Safe Sex Page, and the Health Oakland Teens Project. The pages on conflict and violence include a half-dozen links on gangs, preventing violence and working through conflict in school. The site is not completely up to date--some of its links are to pages that no longer exist--but in the absence of a comprehensive library for teen health issues, it's a handy guide.

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