Kicking off TECHsex

TECHsex is YTH’s collection of data, statistics, stories, and perspectives on the experiences of young people. We want to know how they interact with social media and technology, specifically related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

A year ago, Jay and I were sitting in the conference room, reviewing the research guides from the 2011 study, preparing the follow-up in 2016. We found ourselves laughing hysterically at the outdated terms in focus group discussion guides. It was incredible to us how much had changed in the last five years, and this was just the beginning.

Now, seven cities, twelve focus groups, sixty-six focus group participants, and one-thousand five hundred survey respondents later, I believe that technology is evolving at an exponential rate, creating many changes for young people who have grown up with this constant connection available to them.

So many of the amazing young people we met shared with us how technology and social media helps them with so many things: doing homework, connecting with family, finding local clinics, flirting with their crushes, and of course, keeping up with all their friends near and far. They also face a nearly equal numbers of drawbacks such as anxiety around posting a selfie and the fear of harassing comments, or having to determine what information they trust for health information.

The findings are wonderful, heartbreaking, and staggering findings we have from TECHsex. And I can’t wait to share. Each month we’ll give you a taste of what we learned, leading up to the publication of our full report.

While in New Orleans conducting our focus groups, some of the young people we met with shared that only two schools in the New Orleans Parish School District were offering comprehensive sex education. We were not even sure we heard that correctly. Upon further research, we learned that Louisiana state law prioritizes abstinence only sex education, and that schools are encouraged, but not even required, to offer instruction. Currently, if a school moves to adopt a more comprehensive sex education curriculum, it must go through a list of approvals, including the school board and parent groups. Based on the recently increasing rates of new HIV infections among young people, we were particularly inspired by the work of our community partner, Louisiana Public Health Institute. Kristie Bardell and her LPHI colleagues were working to promote comprehensive sex education more local schools, by providing technical assistance to schools.

Galvanized by stories like this and many more we got to hear, Jay and I are working tirelessly to pull together the final report, to bring all of the voices of young people we met all over the country, and all of their stories, woven together to redefine the digital landscape for other young people around the United States. While I hope this report will be the foundation for new and exciting projects and programs, I am proud of the young people we met and find myself thinking “we made this possible.”

Want to learn more? Catch updates on the full TECHsex report, including quotes, findings, symposiums, and the full publication by following along with the hashtag #techsex.