Many of our teens can’t stop texting and health educators see that habit as a private way to get crucial information to our teens about sex.
Public health services are popping up around the country where teens can text message their questions about sex to an expert and receive a timely, albeit short, reply back.
The New York Times reports: ” ‘Technology reduces the shame and embarrassment,’ said Deb Levine, executive director of ISIS, a nonprofit organization that began many technology-based reproductive health programs. ‘It’s the perceived privacy that people have when they’re typing into a computer or a cellphone. And it’s culturally appropriate for young people: they don’t learn about this from adults lecturing them.’ “…
However, there is concern about teens having access to this information without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
“That lack of oversight is what galls Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. ‘If I couldn’t control access to this information, I’d turn off the texting service,’ he said. ‘When it comes to the Internet, parents are advised to put blockers on their computer and keep it in a central place in the home. But kids can have access to this on their cellphones when they’re away from parental influence – and it can’t be controlled.’ ” …
“Sally Swanson, a staffer and mother of two teenagers, said if parents did read them, ‘It would highlight how much disconnected information kids are already getting at younger ages than we did.’ The questions can be salacious. The staffers try to answer them all, said educator James Martin, but discreetly and always urging protection. In offering this service to teenagers, he said, ‘you can’t say ‘I’ll be honest except or until.’ ‘ That’s often what happens with parents, he added, ‘when the child brings up something shocking, the parents tend to shut down.’ “
The Times’ story says questions range from pregnancy and STDs to rape and general adolescence. In general the adults working at the services are trained public health educators. They try not to give medical advice. They encourage the teens to speak to a doctor for that. They do not advocate abortion and try to give reasoned, kind advice without sarcasm.
What do you think: Is sex ed via texting a smart way to reach teens who need information? Does it leave parents too out of the loop? Would you want your teen texting to a sex educator that you didn’t know?