Back to School…and Beyond

Over and over in issues of health, particularly sexual health, we run into the problem of education. It’s difficult to convince someone to use a condom or get that rash checked out if they don’t understand the consequences. In part, the issue needs to be addressed in schools, with better sexual health education across the country. But that only goes so far: classrooms aren’t always the environments most conducive to learning, particularly with sensitive topics like this. Teachers are sometimes limited in what they’re allowed or (have the time) to teach, and it’s all painfully public. So health educators are turning increasingly to apps and the internet as a complement to their work, since teens spend much of their time on the phone and online.

school tech

For instance, the Teen Health Clinic in Houston, Texas recently went on a campaign to expand its digital media outreach. They revamped their website to include information and FAQs for patients and professionals, including videos and a Q&A service, Ask Tiffor Ty, that replies to any email within 24 hours. They also started accounts on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and set up a regular SMS texting service which shares information every week, sending out messages like, “Today is World AIDS Day. Please join us in the fight against HIV/AIDS and continue to work towards an AIDS-free generation.” You can learn more from the Clinic’s presentation at the YTH Live panel “The Strength of Social Media.”

You can get even more interactive with educational games like LongStory. Downloadable on desktops, Apple IOS and Android platforms, LongStory is a LGBT+-positive dating game that teaches players how to discuss their feelings and desires, emotional and sexual.

Other apps, like SexPositive and Sex Education St, are more classic information resources, like digital encyclopedias. Nonetheless, they’re often easier for teens to access than classroom resources. Kinsey Reporter lets users share and explore anonymous data on sex around the world. bEATEN Track, winner of the YTH Health Hackathon, records the number of miles the user has walked, run, and biked; each mile earns points with which to buy at local farmers’ markets.

People can’t be safe and healthy if they never learn how, or why it’s important. Education is paramount in issues of health, particularly sexual health. We can improve the classroom experience, but we need to take the lecture to new platforms, online and on our phones.

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Creative Commons images from BibioArchives (cover image) and www.audio-luci-store.it.

 


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