TECHsex Insight: Interview With The Tunica Teens

At YTH, we work alongside youth in our programs and projects, not only to give young people a voice on our platforms, but to ensure that our work is youth-driven every step of the way. For our TECHsex study, we had our Youth Advisory Board review focus group and survey guides for the study, engaged youth through focus groups and an online survey, and partnered with youth-led organizations like The Tunica Teens In Action to disseminate our research findings.

We spoke with Ashley McKay, Executive Director of Tunica Teens in Action about their organization’s involvement with our study, the implications of the research, and how providers can apply this information to their work with young people. Read on to hear about their perspective on our study:

YTH: What compelled you to become involved in our TECHsex work and study?

MARILYN & ASHLEY: Tunica Teens In Action was compelled to get involved in the TECHsex study because of our quest to obtain more data and research to support our sexual reproductive health and wellness work, locally. We are very interested in understanding the intersection of technology and the use of social media to help youths become safer in sexual practices. We were introduced to the study at a conference that was held by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. At this conference, we met Julie Swann of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who shared with us that YTH, an organization out of California was doing research that could help advance our SRHW (Sexual Reproductive Health and Wellness) work with the use of social media and technology. After this encounter with Julie, we were contacted by YTH staff directly. From there, we built a good working relationship around our shared programming with youth, social media, and sexual and reproductive health, and we were happy to to participate in the TECHsex study.

YTH: What, in your opinion, is the most important finding in this study? Why?

MARILYN & ASHLEY: One of the most important findings is the concept that many youth self-diagnose their sexual health problems by “googling it”. Twenty percent of the youth completely trusted this online information and sixty percent of the youth somewhat trusted this online sexual information-wow! This finding supports Tunica Teens In Action’s belief, that many of our youth are using online technology to advance their SRHW understanding or misunderstanding. Because of this, we believe youth in the South benefit from community based organizations like Tunica Teens In Action who are working to share medically accurate SRHW information with them.

We also thought it was important that young people in the South still feel comfortable with talking with parents and trusted family members about sexual issues. We feel this means that some Southern families are connecting with the youth on their sexual health.

YTH: How can providers use this information in the report about online dating, social media, cyberbullying, and health information online in their work?

MARILYN & ASHLEY: We believe that SRHW providers can use this information to help shape their youth messaging. Certainly understanding how youth use positive relevant sexual information will help providers to better decide what method/medium to use in getting out the newly shaped sexual reproductive health and wellness messages.

Specifically, the TECHsex report showed that nearly one-third (34%) of our youths are using social media dating sites. We need to consider a method to share our information, using these sites.

YTH: Why should people download the TECHsex report and read the research findings?

MARILYN & ASHLEY: We believe that the research inside of this report will help anyone that takes the time to read it. For those people who are busy, the one pager summarizes the major points from the report. Organizations who are working with youth, especially those who are doing sexual reproductive health and wellness work, will certainly benefit from the research in the report.

Specifically, we believe reading this report and then discussing the finding with the young people will help to establish and strengthen the trust between the youth and adult allies. We saw this dialoguing and strengthening of trust in our youth of Tunica Teens In Action when the report information was shared inside our local community based group.

YTH: Thanks for sharing your perspective with our audiences. We look forward to continuing to work with you!

Do you want to see the TECHsex findings for yourself? Download the full report.