Earlier this month, I attended Sex::Tech 2011 in San Francisco, the fourth annual conference on technology, youth, and sexual health. At the conference, I heard from a range of experts – sexual health educators, researchers, technology developers, parents, and of course, youth and young adults. During her welcome presentation on Day 1, Sex::Tech founder Deb Levine emphasized that when it comes to reaching young people with sexual health information, there are four key points to consider:
•Optimize search – young people need the right answers to be accessible
•Think push, don’t pull – deliver messages where youth already are and when they want it
•Talk to, not at, youth – they’re smart – deliver and engage in meaningful (and even humorous) conversations
•Keep your head in the (computer) cloud – we have to be ubiquitous and "transform sex-ed from boring to brand"
These points echo what we heard from others presenters at Sex::Tech and what AIDS service providers have told us before – that youth want to access health information quickly and easily, especially when it comes to HIV. This could be anything from learning what HIV is, to answering a question about how it’s transmitted, to finding an HIV testing site nearby. And youth can (and do!) do this with cell phones. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project , 75% of teens have a mobile phone , 54% of teens send texts every day , and even 84% of teens sleep with their phones on or next to their bed . If we start to think about youth as consumers who are seeking out the product they want, we have to reach the medium where they are, and this is increasingly becoming mobile.
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