How this app can help you talk with your teens about sex

Apps on our smartphones allow us to get directions, order pizza or play a video game. An app called “Yes to Sex” now encourages young people to make more-informed decisions about their sexual relationships.

The app requests that you and your potential sexual partner answer a series of questions, beginning with queries about your sexual mood. You are given such choices as “seductive,” “thrilled” or “not interested,” while your partner can respond with “turned on” or “sorry, not interested.”

After confirming that you are 16 years of age or older, each partner is asked to consent to a series of statements. For example, you are asked to confirm that “neither of us are asleep or passed out, mentally incapacitated, physically helpless, or too intoxicated to consent.”

In addition to the items about consent, there are questions about what type of birth control you will use, and information about sexually transmitted diseases. Finally, you and your partner are asked to record on your phone your consent to sex and what safe word you’ll use to revoke your permission.

The app was developed by the mom of three college students, focused on the very real issues of sexual assaults on campus and the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease.

In spite of its lofty goals, it’s easy to ridicule this app. It’s intended to help young adults avoid awkward conversations about sexual relations. When kids talk to me about why they didn’t use birth control or discuss sexual health before having sex, they say they felt too embarrassed to talk about such personal matters.

My response is simple: If you are too uncomfortable to have that conversation, then you shouldn’t have sex with that person.

Sexual assaults on college campuses are closely connected with the intoxicated state of one or both of the participants. This app will have no impact on those situations. I doubt that partners will call a time out from their amorous activities to interact with a phone app.

This approach seems pretty stupid to older individuals, but perhaps it may have some value. Young people, correctly and incorrectly, use technology to communicate. If this app helps young people keep themselves healthy and safe, then it’s helpful.

If you have a teen or young adult in your house, here’s your homework: Download this app on your phone, and ask your child their opinion about its use. This is your opportunity to listen and educate. Talk about the high rate of sexual assaults, sexually transmitted diseases, and what consent means. Understand your teen’s viewpoint about this app, and please please please don’t ridicule their responses.

Next Week: Here’s why Time Out isn’t working.