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Sext education direct to your phone

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Allison Schiff, web editor, Direct Marketing News
Allison Schiff, web editor, Direct Marketing News

Though no one actually used the phrase “the birds and the bees,” the few bits I remember from the sex education classes I was subjected to in grade school roughly 15 years ago are hazy and fogged by euphemism. Let's just say that after the sessions were over, I still had a lot of questions.

But today, the power of mobile and the ubiquity of the Internet are being harnessed by a variety of health organizations to give kids the skinny on sex, according to The New York Times.

In Colorado, the ICYC (In Case You're Curious) phone chat service run by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains allows students to text in their sex health questions and promises a response within 24 hours. California teens can text their ZIP codes to the Hookup to get listings for health clinic locations, free weekly sex info and what it calls “life advice.” Chicagoan teenagers who sign up for Sex-Ed Loop get weekly texts about safe sex and disease prevention. In New York, there's Real Talk, a tech-driven H.I.V. prevention program targeting high-risk youth in Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

Some people aren't so pleased with the programs, though. Keith Mason, president of anti-abortion group Personhood USA told The Denver Post that “In Case You're Curious” is “just another extension of [Planned Parenthood's] abortion-marketing plan … Just like restaurants use texts to give out coupons, this is their way of driving young people to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in America.”

The tone of the text messaging is designed to appeal to teens. This isn't your gym teacher droning on about fallopian tubes and handing out packets of Clearasil.

The Hookup, for example, recently sent out this tip: "Different=NORMAL when it comes 2 bodies. Every1 is unique & that includes genitals!"

That's pretty direct. It's also a cost-effective way to handle a touchy subject.

Sure, some parents would rather their kids come and talk to them about sex, but that doesn't mean it's not a good idea to have other venues open to teens with questions. [In the words of one Denver teen interviewed by the Times: “It's too gross to ask my parents.”]

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