Gamifying Sexual Education for Adolescents in a Low-Tech Setting: Quasi-Experimental Design Study

JMIR Serious Games. 2021 Oct 12;9(4):e19614. doi: 10.2196/19614.


Background: Sexual education has become increasingly important as unhealthy sexual practices and subsequent health risks become more prevalent during adolescence. Traditional sex education teaching methodologies are limiting for digital natives exposed to various digital technologies. Harnessing the power of technology applications attractive to the younger generation may be a useful approach for teaching sex education.

Objective: The aim of this study was to improve sexual health knowledge and understanding of the problems associated with unhealthy sexual practices and address sexual and reproductive health challenges experienced in a low-tech setting.

Methods: A participatory design approach was used to develop the digital gamified methodology. A sample of 120 secondary school students aged 11-15 were randomly assigned to either experimental or control group for each of the 3 teaching approaches: (1) gamified instruction (actual serious games [SG] in teaching); (2) gamification (GM; making nongames, such as game-like learning); and (3) traditional teaching (TT) methods.

Results: The SG and GM approaches were more effective than TT methods in teaching sexual health education. Specifically, the average scores across groups demonstrated an increase of mean scores from the pre- to posttest (25.10 [SD 5.50] versus 75.86 [SD 13.16]; t119=41.252; P<.001 [2 tailed]). Analysis of variance indicated no significant differences across groups for pretest scores (F2,117=1.048, P=.35). Significant differences across groups were evident in the posttest scores. Students in the SG and GM groups had higher average scores than the TT group (F2,117=83.98; P<.001). Students reported increased learning motivation, attitude, know-how, and participation in learning (P<.001) when using SG and GM approaches.

Conclusions: Digital health technologies (particularly teaching and learning through gamified instruction and other novel approaches) may improve sexual health education. These findings may also be applied by practitioners in health care settings and by researchers wishing to further the development of sex education.

Keywords: digital generation; e-learning; educational innovation; gamification; gamified instruction; low-tech setting; serious gaming; teenage students.