Regular readers of Uncommon Sense might remember the problems I have with www.4parents.gov . (see 4Parents Still Faulty , from May). It's ostensibly an educational website for parents of teenagers that provides advice about talking to teens about puberty, sex and making responsible choices. But in reality, it's got information that's not scientifically correct and is highly judgmental toward non-traditional families, homosexual teens and anyone who might be thinking about premarital sex. So I was glad to see Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., taking the site to task  recently.
Waxman—who's a longtime critic  of the Bush administration's abstinence-only approach toward sex education—requested that a panel of nationally known experts on adolescent development and sexuality review the site for accuracy and effectiveness. The results , not surprisingly, were not positive:
-- 4parents.gov provides inaccurate information about sexually transmitted diseases. The website understates the effectiveness of condoms, provides false information about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and misstates the risks of various types of sexual behavior.
-- 4parents.gov's dismissive message on contraception is likely to backfire. The website's emphasis on condom failure rates will leave youth more likely to have unprotected sex.
-- 4parents.gov uses inappropriate language and provides incomplete information about sexual orientation. The sites errs by referring to gay and lesbian "lifestyles" rather than "people," and does not explain to parents that youth questioning their sexual orientation are at increased risk for suicide most often because of rejection, ostracism, harassment, and violence by other peers and adults.
-- 4parents.gov degrades divorced and single parents. The site suggests that divorce and single parenthood are responsible for the nation's social ills.
-- 4parents.gov has misplaced priorities. While the site primarily addresses teen sex, its emphasis on what it considers other unhealthy behaviors is inappropriate. For example, the experts found that tattoos and body piercing receive more attention than alcohol and tobacco use.
Waxman also questioned why the Bush administration hired the National Physicians Center for Family Resources  to create the website, when the Department of Health and Human Services already has a legion of well-trained and respected experts right on its staff. The National Physicians Center is the same organization that promoted a study by one of its board members—who is a Ph.D but not a medical doctor—asserting that abortion causes breast cancer.
While Waxman hasn't yet gotten any official response to his panel's review of 4parents.gov, his point has been made. It's a step in the right direction—which is a total revamping of the site. But I'm not holding my breath that HHS is in much of a rush.