Teens Use Facebook, YouTube to Educate Peers About Sexual Health

Adolescents who are sexually active are uniquely at risk because they may be more likely to have multiple sexual partners, engage in unprotected sex, use alcohol or other substances before or during sex, and are more likely to have an injury during sex, which makes it easier to contract STIs.

In addition to better screening for STIs, Ferrer said the report's results are likely the result of increased complacency among teens and educators about understanding risks and how to protect themselves.

And saturating teens with nuts-and-bolts information about STIs and sexual health may not be enough, as the rising rates of infections show.

"You can plaster information all over the place, but still, the behavior isn't changing," Cousineau said. "That [AIDS] scare factor that was really real 20 years ago isn't prevalent amongst the current generation of teens."

Negotiating Safer Sex Is the Next Educational Challenge

Instead, there is a wide gap for information about learning the skills to negotiate conversations about safer sex -- conversations where factual information might be relevant but using it could be intimidating.

This gap is one new media venues could be poised to fill.

"This is, I think, the next step for YouTube type of videos -- role playing how to negotiate saying no if your partner doesn't have a condom, what to do if it breaks and how to go about asking for help," Cousineau said. "Have teens portray the skills the way they think are helpful and teach it that way as opposed to [simply] what an STI is."

The BPHC's program could easily segue into other topics affecting adolescent health such as drug abuse or academic achievement. Ferrer said the BPHC plans next to launch a similar campaign utilizing Facebook and YouTube aimed at dating violence.

"I think it's going to change the way we think about doing public health work in the future as well as change response from young people," Ferrer said. "With young people, it's really different, the level of communication and the technology used to do that communication. We need to take advantage of it."

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