By Laura S. LoomisUCLA researchers have used a computer program to develop an app that can teach children how to identify and use sexually-specific materials in their schools.
The team behind the app, which uses a software framework to teach kids to recognize images of naked men and women, says the software could be put into classrooms as soon as next year, but it won’t be used until the software is approved by the California Department of Education.
The UCLA team, which included UCLA students, found that children were better at identifying and using sexually-inappropriate materials if they were exposed to images of people wearing revealing clothing or having sex, the team reported on Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
“We are working with the children themselves, the school, and parents, to figure out how we can incorporate this technology into our curriculum,” said the team’s senior author, UCLA School of Nursing and Health Professions Professor Joanne O’Neill.
The app uses images from an online search engine to show how students should be able to identify pictures of sexual-inhuman behavior.
The software then helps kids navigate through the images.
The results were promising.
When a team of five students viewed an image of a person with a large penis, the students identified it and correctly identified the sexual orientation of the person in the image, the UCLA team found.
But when the students viewed images of other types of people, such as a person wearing lingerie or wearing short shorts, they were able to recognize only those types of pictures, even though they were the same person in different situations.
The students also were able identify images that appeared to be of a woman who had sex with another woman, even when the two women were nude.
O’Neill and her team hope that by adding the app to classrooms, parents and students will be able more easily access information about sexual-misconduct prevention and awareness.
The apps could also be used for education and in the workplace, O’Neil said.
The program is not the first time that researchers have created software that can help teachers teach sex-education materials.
A number of students in one school, for instance, were able correctly identify an image that had a man and woman together, and another students were able recognize images that showed two men kissing.
Researchers are working on a similar software for school districts.
Ori Hsu, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Sexual Health at the University of California, San Francisco, said that if a school wants to use the software, he’d encourage it.
“The software needs to be approved by a teacher and a school.
We want it to be accessible to teachers,” he said.
Ollie Eiseman, a research assistant at the School of Education, said there are several ways to use sex-and-reproductive health information to teach about sexual behavior.
For example, she said, students can learn about sexual activity, pregnancy and STDs by using pictures of people having sex.
And they can ask teachers to help them identify other health problems such as depression or obesity.
For a student to use a sex-reproduction tool for teaching about sexual behaviors, however, is a new phenomenon, Eisman said.
It is rare for schools to use sexual-health materials for such a purpose, she added.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.