Sex Ed Through Text Messaging
If you take a shower before you have sex, are you less likely to get pregnant? Does a normal penis have wrinkles? If my BF doesn’t like me to be loud during sex but I can’t help it, what am I supposed to do? These questions were texted to the Birds and Bees Text Line, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina’s latest effort to provide teens between 14 and 19 with sex education and information. Within 24 hours, every text sent in is answered by a nameless, faceless adult from the center who gives a cautious, nonjudgmental response via text. The Birds and the Bees Text Line started on February 1 and reaches teens through the one device that consumes their lives — their cellphones. As politicians and school officials in many states try to decide whether school curricula should mention contraception, teens continue to have sex. Some public health experts and epidemiologists say sex education in classrooms is often ineffective or just insufficient. And teen pregnancy and STD rates have risen in many parts of the country. North Carolina has an abstinence-only curriculum in schools, yet the state has the ninth-highest teenage pregnancy rate.
Some public health experts, who are alarmed at the consequences of risky adolescent sexual activity, have figured out that technology is the best way to reach teens. Columbia University has the Go Ask Alice! website and Atlantic Health has TeenHealthFX. Similar to the Birds and the Bees Line, programs in D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto allow adolescents to search the frequently asked questions menu and receive automated responses with addresses of free clinics in their area.
The internet and texting reduce shame and embarrassment and provides a level of privacy that a young person might not get from a teacher or friend. But not everyone is excited about reaching teens in these ways. Some believe these conversations should happen with parents in the home.
Let’s face it: If parents and teens were having open, nonjudgmental discussions about sex, we wouldn’t have increased teen pregnancy rates around the country, and young people wouldn’t be contracting preventable sexually transmitted diseases at such high rates. [NY Times]