US sex education is decades behind other countries. Right now, it isn’t even mandatory in every state. Add to that the awkwardness people feel about sex and bodies in general, top it with the idea of having to have these discussions in public, and what you get is a system that’s devolved into a total mess.
It’s no wonder 84 percent of teens look for health information online. The problem there is that a lot of the answers they come across — about everything from STIs to puberty to pregnancy to sexual orientation — are often just plain wrong.
Naturally, tech wants to find a solution.
That’s how Planned Parenthood created Roo, a sex ed chatbot that encourages teenagers to ask all of their potentially uncomfortable sex-related without ever revealing their identity.
To build Roo, Ambreen Molitor, senior director of the Digital Product Lab at Planned Parenthood, first interviewed Brooklyn high school students about their online habits and what they would want out of a bot that talked to them about everything from safe sex to coming out. Her team discovered that above all, “teens really wanted to be anonymous.”
“Sometimes they didn’t feel comfortable talking to the community around them or in the sex-ed classrooms. But also online, because more often than not, Gen Z’s teens, in general, are very aware that when you’re searching on Google, you’re being cooked. They’re very cognizant of what they type into the browser or the search query — which is really unique.”