Teaching teens about sex isn’t easy; ask any parent or teacher.
Peiying Feng, an artist and designer undertaking her Masters thesis at Parson’s School of Design in New York, wants to use her unique insight as a Chinese-Canadian to change that.
Feng is developing an app that aims to teach young people about sex through mobile gaming. Tap That specifically aims to raise awareness in kids about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and how they might be treated, managed or prevented.
The app is designed to feel like a game rather than a tool for education, Feng says. “Sex is supposed to be a positive experience, so why shouldn’t sex education be as well?”
The mobile game, which is still being finalized, involves adorable characters that knock virtual boots and expose themselves to various digital infections.
If your character turns green, it’s sick. The player then learns all about the STI and how to treat it. Prevention, as ever, is the best cure. The aim is to keep your humans alive until the time runs out.
Ignorance ain’t bliss
Feng spent her formative years straddling two quite different cultures. Growing up in North America and later moving to China during her teens, she became acutely aware of the inadequacy, or even lack of sex education for youngsters.
“In a time where society still isn’t able to fully provide teens with the knowledge they need to make choices for a future safe sex life, Tap That matters,” says Feng.
With only 20 out of 50 States in the US requiring schools to teach factual and medically accurate sex education to their students and the Chinese schooling system making it all but impossible to teach meaningful sex education to young people, Feng thinks gaming is the best way to reach her intended audience.
“Denying that teens engage in sex does not mean they do not. The only way that we can truly protect them is to give them the knowledge and empowerment so they themselves can make the right choices at the right time, whatever that may mean for them.” – Peiying Feng
Feng originally proposed a series of educational games, each covering different aspects of sex education, but has chosen to focus on STIs for now.
Of course, for many teens, the answers to their embarrassing sex education questions are only a Google search away. But as we know, this information isn’t always the most reliable or accurate.
While Tap That might provide a more trustworthy source of information, it isn’t the first app to attempt this. Apps like My Sex Doctor, Juicebox, and SexPositive all provide useful general and local information in a more traditional format.
However, very few have successfully used gamification of sex education to convey beneficial and accurate information. STD Dodger certainly attempts this but falls short as it doesn’t provide specific information about various STIs and it only provides one method of prevention. Perhaps more importantly, STD Dodger doesn’t seem to demonstrate the real life consequences of STIs in the way that Tap That does.
When finished, Tap That will be launching on iOS and Android.