Two of a teen's favorite subjects are together at last: Sex and texting!
Like almost everything these days, sex ed just went high-tech. A unique program from the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina called The Birds & Bees Text Line allows teens to text in their questions about sex. Questions range from the innocent: how to properly "french kiss," to whether an after-sex shower can ward off pregnancy. No question is deemed "too outrageous" and responders promise, "We won't judge you or preach to you; you get the best advice and information that we can offer free of charge."
Not every question is answered at face value. "We will refine what they're asking, clarifying questions," says Sally Swanson, one of the responders in the program. When one teen texted the question, "When is the best time to have sex for the first time?" Swanson responded, "Wow, that's a big decision." She then asked a series of questions of her own, involving relationship status and safe sex. The program also gives quite a lot of referrals. "Since it's a one-time interaction," says Swanson, "we affirm that they're asking a question and reaching out and refer them appropriately."
Bill Albert, spokesman and chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, thinks the program is right on target. "Young people today are consumed by media, including texting, social networking, and IM. This intervention has the advantage of reaching teens where they already are instead of trying to get them to go to church basements or community centers." Since the teen birthrate is on the rise after 14 steady years of decline, says Albert, efforts need to be more personal to get through to kids.
But shouldn't parents be the ones connecting with our teens?
"Yes," says Swanson. "In an ideal world, parents are involved in sex education, but we don't always live in the perfect world -- this is a good way to reach young people on a sensitive topic." So far, says Swanson, there have been no complaints from parents. "To be honest," she says, "the parents would be more shocked by the questions teens are asking rather than any of our answers."Ultimately, says Swanson, the program gives teens a chance to ask an anonymous question that "they might even be too embarrassed to ask their friends and we give them a balanced and thoughtful answer."
Do you think the Birds & Bees Text Line is an inappropriate method of sex education?