Sex education via cellphone?
by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
All of our readers are going to have to forgive us for the next week or so; it's reading period here at Princeton, and most of us (especially me) are up to our ears in papers. But I do want to try to stay somewhat updated, and this article from yesterday's New York Times was too good not to share. Are you a teenager? Got questions about sex? Well now you can text them, anonymously, to the Birds and Bees Text Line, which opened on February 1. Your questions will be answered in a "cautious, nonjudgmental" way by adult at the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, within 24 hours.
I think this is a fantastic use of texting, because it completely reduces embarrassment. Teenagers often feel that their questions about sex are silly, or that they shouldn't be talking about sex at all - and the anonymity of the cellphone means that the other person doesn't even have to hear their voice. Professor Sheana Bull, an expert on sexually transmitted disease infection and technology at the University of Colorado School of Public Health put it beautifully when she said, “The technology can be used to connect young people to trusted, competent adults who have competent information.” All of the adults who answer the text line have graduate degrees in public health or social work, or years of experience with teenagers.
The NYT reports that "girls and boys alike ask about anal intercourse: Will it prevent pregnancy? Let a girl remain a virgin? 'If ur partner has aids,' one teenager asks, 'and u have sex without a condom do u get aids the first time or not?'"
Advocates of abstinence-only sex education say that this kind of engagement with teenagers circumvents the sex education they receive in schools. But look at the questions that teens are asking - and think about what happens if they can't get straight answers.