Want to Talk About Sex? Send a Text

"I would be upset if they texted the service," she said. "I'd be disappointed that they felt they had to go to this service rather than come to us."

Asked whether she thought there may be questions her kids have that are too embarrassing to ask her, Vaughn said "yes" but that she hopes they'd ask her or her husband anyway.

David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an expert on sexual behavior, said that while some parents may cringe at the text line, they must come to terms with the fact that kids today are looking for information, and fast.

"Texts and instant messaging is the predominant mode of communication for kids," said Greenfield. "If you don't want to work within the modality that's their primary source for information, then you're going to miss them."

"Almost every kid has got one of those things, a cell phone, in their hands," he said. "So if you want to reach them, reach them where they live."

Valerie Huber, the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, holds many of the same beliefs as Vaughn, and said that while she agrees embracing technology is a good step toward communicating with teens about sex, she is not sure this system is the best way to do it.

"It looks to me as though [the text line] is actually putting teens at increased risk by kind of giving them a green light for sexual experimentation," said Huber.

Huber's also concerned that the space limitations of a text message won't do justice to a serious question.

"My concern is that in a 20-word text message, how effective a message can be given?" she asked.

How this text line may inhibit a parent's relationship with their teen is also a concern of Huber's.

"We know from survey after survey that parents are the people teens really want to talk to about sex," said Huber. "Is this text line really encouraging that?"

APPCNC's Swanson says it is.

"A lot of the teens are texting us to ask how to talk to their parents about certain subjects," said Swanson.

For example, one teen recently texted, "What's the best way to tell your mother you had sex?"

"This may depend on the relationship you have with your mom currently," read the response to the teen. "Most parents really want their children to be honest with them and to depend on them. I commend you for wanting to have open and honest communication with your mom."

Swanson adds that the more difficult questions, such as issues concerning abortion or rape are always responded to with information about local clinics, counselors or help hotlines.

Addressing criticism from parents like Vaughn, Swanson said that she, too, would want her own kids to come to her first for advice but adds that the text line isn't trying to overtake the role of the parent but, rather, act as a complimentary tool for teens.

"I want my kids to talk to me, too, if they have a burning question," she said.

"But if there's something they want to know and they're not going to come to me, having a place to go for a clear, medically accurate and non-hyped up answer isn't a bad idea."

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