What do you get when you combine sex education with the power of technology? ReachOut Social Media Content Developer Erica Thompson and ReachOut California Director Nicola Survanshi found out last week at the YTH Live 2013 Conference hosted at the Stanford Court Renaissance Hotel here in San Francisco. In today's guest post, Erica, who is also a college student and aspring social worker, reflects on some of the memorable presentations and takeaways from the event. Be sure to check out her bio below!
Last week, ReachOut California Director Nicola Survanshi and I had the honor of attending YTH Live 2013, an annual conference hosted by YTH, short for Youth+Tech+Health. The multi-day event brings together health and technology professionals from all over the world in an effort to promote the advancement of sexual health education in young people.
On the first day, I attended the panel “Reality TV (Not): Student Documentary and Teen Parent Panel.” In this panel, the audience was treated to two brief digital documentaries about teenage mothers created by two California high school students followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers The young mothers tried to dispel the inaccurate portrayals and glamorization of teen moms on shows like MTV’s “Teen Mom” or “16 and Pregnant” by sharing a more realistic narrative based in the struggles and triumphs of raising their own babies. The young mothers expressed the negative stigma associated with teen moms as being characterized as “careless” or “irresponsible.” The young mothers also expressed how sex can be healthy and natural as long as it is done with safety precautions, such as using birth control like condoms.
Listening to their moving stories challenged my assumption that all the mothers were not taking birth control before getting pregnant. To my surprise, Karla, one of the mothers confessed she was actually on birth control, but because she started taking antibiotics for a kidney infection the birth control no longer worked. It was a memorable lesson that one should always be knowledgeable about how medications may affect, or even counteract, their birth control method.
The following day started bright and early with breakfast in the foyer. Both Nicola and I attended the “Finding Communities on Facebook” session where we learned how advertising on Facebook has proven cheap and effective in engaging with a specific demographic, such as youth between ages 16-24. Matthew Prior from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health talked about how Facebook advertisements enabled Take Control Philly, a mail-order condom program, to attract thousands of 13-19 year olds to get free condoms and practice safer sex. Each advertising campaign cost roughly around $3,000 and lasts for two weeks. After their first advertising campaign, Take Control Philly was able to increase Facebook followers from 200 to 2,000! As a social media content developer, this breakout session gives me hope that ReachOut can attract more traffic to the website if we invest in things like Facebook campaigns and other creative endeavors.
Tuesday marked the last day of the conference with a diverse array of breakout sessions and a closing theatrical performance called Secrets sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. Weaving in humor, drama, and music, the performance reinforced the importance of not giving into peer pressure when it comes to sex and the benefits of abstinence in STI prevention.
We were proud to represent ReachOut and Inspire USA at the YTH Live Conference and are looking forward to attend next year.
My name is Erica Thompson, and I’m 20 years-old. I’m biracial: half African-American and half Chinese. I've lived in the Bay Area all my life. I enjoy gardening, learning new languages, and dancing. Currently, I am studying at Laney College and dream of becoming a social worker. I want to work with foster care children and the homeless. I am a Certified WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator. One of the key elements of WRAP is that there are no limits to your recovery from mental illness. I have a little niece named Atinuke TingTing Taiwo who is beautiful and speaks Mandarin.
Photo courtesy of Eventifier