What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this award-winning health reference website, fully produced and funded by Columbia University, seeks to provide reliable, accurate information in a sincere and sensitive way so people can make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Go Ask Alice! receives over 1,000 very honest and frank questions each week in seven categories: alcohol and drugs, emotional health, fitness and nutrition, general health, relationships, and sexual and reproductive health. Every question is read, and each week a handful of health professionals give five new thoughtful and thorough answers. The site takes pride in being ad- and sponsor-free, respects privacy, and does not answer questions asking for medical diagnoses. Questions come from students, parents, teachers, professionals, and other adults; however, most topics cover issues concerning college students.
What kids can learn
- handling stress
- identifying emotions
Health & Fitness
- body awareness
- mental health
Engagement, Approach, Support
You remember how it was -- and teens today will be relieved to browse a wealth of information on sometimes uncomfortable topics. Links to related entries appear at the bottom of each answer, encouraging kids to jump among subjects.
Friendly and trust-inspiring "Alice" can make teens feel they're being heard. Topics are discussed in depth, allowing readers to learn facts beyond their original questions. Given the site's reach, the quiz section could be more substantial.
The site's archive is organized into six sections and many subsections. Navigation is easy, and users can search by keyword. Fact sheets are available in the Resources section, though some are only available to Columbia students.
What's it about?
All of the site’s main features are accessible from the home page. Kids can read New Q&A to find questions answered that week or browse questions by topic in the Q&A Library. They can click “Ask Alice” if they have a question; however, with so many questions submitted weekly, users are always referred to the library first. Kids can answer a few short questions in a Quick Quiz, respond to a poll, and explore the Theme of the Week where answers about a particular topic are grouped together.
Is it any good?
For anyone who longed for a cooler, older sibling to not laugh at your questions and tell you the answers, she’s here and her name is Alice. Originally designed for college students, Go Ask Alice!’s accurate, friendly, and sometimes humorous answers say “you’re OK!” to a curious audience. Teens who visit the site may sigh in relief that someone else has the same very personal question they do. Some have criticized the site’s openness as condoning inappropriate behavior, but it’s not all weird stuff (for example, how to deal with the loss of a pet, stress, roommates) and it can be a good resource for parents who need to talk to their kids about sex. An independent study from Stanford University lists Go Ask Alice! first among websites for reputable and credible reproductive health information on the web. However, some questions are definitely more “out there” than others, so it’s best to leave the independent browsing to older teens.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about body image. Talk about developing a positive self-image and recognizing misleading messages in the media about getting and having the “perfect body.” Read Common Sense Media’s Girls and Body Image Tips and Boys and Body Image Tips.
Families can talk about sex. Kids will start asking questions long before they’re officially teenagers, and not just about puberty and kissing. Many resources can help nervous parents arm themselves with answers for their kids, or approach the topic with their teens.
When the media features alcohol and drug use, it affects kids. Ads or movies may make alcohol look cool while reality-TV rehab presents the dark side of addition. Check out Common Sense Media’s Alcohol in the Media Tips for advice about how to discuss drug and alcohol issues with teens.