For plugged-in teens looking for a little advice, one city is making it easier for them to get the information they need to make smart decisions.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has launched a new educational program designed to get sexual health information directly and discretely to teens. With the press of a few buttons, the program, SexInfo, sends teen-friendly text-messages directly to cell phones.
"SexInfo empowers youth to get answers to their burning questions in a safe and private way," says Deb Levin, executive director of Internet Sexuality Information Services, the company responsible for the development of this program.
Besides utilizing a popular method for teens to communicate, the program also uses teen-friendly language to make the program even more accessible.
When a teen texts the word "sexinfo" to a specified number, they receive a menu filled with information on commonly-asked about topics, such as "if ur condom broke," "if u think u might b gay," or "if u think ur pregnant."
After choosing the category, a brief text message is then sent to their phone giving general advice about their issue and directing them to local clinics or phone numbers for more support.
For example, in reply to the message ""if someone's hurting u." SexInfo sends the following message: "no matter if it's ur b-friend g-friend uncle neighbor, u don't deserve 2B hurt or touched how u don't want 24/7 sexual abuse resource center 206-8386."
This program began as a response to the rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases among African American San Francisco youths, says Jacque McCright, community based STD services manager at the San Francisco Department of Health. "This was a way to reach out to adolescents in school and outside of school," she says.
Noting that teens often use cells phones for text messaging more than actual phone conversations, McCright hopes that SexInfo will give teens a safe, confidential forum for asking questions. "Text messaging allows them to communicate even when they're not supposed to," she says.
Globally, the SexInfo program can be reached by sending the text message "sexinfo" to 61827 or at http://www.sextextsf.org.