Sex education app a 'one-stop shop' for Canterbury students

Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and the Bees app. Photos:  University of Canterbury
Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and the Bees app. Photos: University of Canterbury
What happens when young people get to co-design a sex-ed app? They go beyond the birds and bees.

Tracy Clelland.
Tracy Clelland.
More than 40 topics covering a range of information about sexuality and relationships are featured in Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and the Bees.

Canterbury University health education lecturer Tracy Clelland said the app will be a one-stop shop for young people to access trustworthy resources.

"Young people keep telling us that there are too many places, too many sources to find out stuff and they don’t know what’s safe, reliable and good quality material.

"From that point, we decided to apply  for some funding and created the app."

The project began in 2020 after UC health science masters graduate, Cate Mentink, found youth are struggling to locate information about sex, sexuality and relationships.

Said Clelland: "Cate came up with the idea and then we decided together if we could make it happen.

"Then the university got on board with software engineers and so on.”

Along with Mentink and Clelland, the team of Dr Adrian Clark, Dr Fabian Gilson and Jess McQuoid have been working with organisations to develop content and get feedback about usability.

So far, the project has received $20,000 funding from Pegasus Health and $40,000 from KiwiNet to start an app prototype.

When the first version was completed in July, the team interviewed more than 200 students in Canterbury for recommendations to co-construct the second stage.

Said Clelland: “Rangatahi (young people) like the content but are asking for it to be more interactive and video-based, which will need more funding.

"We want to ensure all content showcases the diversity of rangatahi in Aotearoa and that their voices are at the heart of the app.”

Additional funding of $100,000 will be needed to maintain and provide up-to-date content over the next two years.

However, the problem is that there is not much funding available for projects focusing on youth sexual and reproductive health.

"We have issues around consent, misogyny, harassment, but we’re not offering young people alternative good sources for education," Clelland said.

The app is scheduled for release in the middle of next year.