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Panel on Sexual Health in the Digital Age discusses new Opportunities, Challenges in the Online World

Hosted by the Responsible Sex Education Institute and Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance

Contacts

Monica McCafferty
303.813.7732
720.475.0289


Published: 06.08.12| Updated: 06.08.12

DENVER – Today almost one hundred community members gathered for an informative discussion on sexual health in the digital age.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet offered the audience introductory remarks, offering sentiments on why the issue of sex education, including keeping teens safe online, is important to him.  Bennet spoke to the fact that we are living in the peak years of change in the digital revolution.  Today’s youth are growing up on Facebook and email and for them, he said, it is the ecosystem of which they live.  The Senator stressed and urged the continuation of dialogue and education around this issue, as “turning off devices” [our youth use] is not the solution.

“Today’s panel highlighted the real opportunities for families to be engaged in conversations about their values and about sexual health,” said Executive Director for the Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance Lisa Olcese.  “With technology becoming more prevalent by the day, we can make these conversations frequent, short and sweet, and community groups can make sure that youth and families together have the most comprehensive and accurate information to guide these conversations.”

State Senator Angela Giron, Senate District 3, spoke to struggles in her district regarding this issue.  “It does need to be a community-wide effort,” she said.  “We need to educate our young people.”

Giron also spoke to the importance of electing people to office who support complete education.

Principal of North High School Nicole Veltze spoke to the budget constraints many schools face and stressed the importance for school administrators to educate themselves about what resources exist in their local communities.  She also urged school administrators to ensure that within school curriculum, even if it takes place on the science-side, to continue these conversations [about sexual health] with our kids.  Vletze gave advice to the audience to advocate for support at the school and district level and advocate for resources that are culturally responsive.

Said Alison Macklin with Planned Parenthood’s Responsible Sexual Health Institute, “This is information youth and teens really want to hear from their parents.  Part of our job as educators is teaching the community and parents about how to take advantage of those teachable moments.  We need to meet youth where they are—‘the talk’ hasn’t changed, but where youth are getting their information today has.”

Stephanie Cisneros, a recent graduate from Adams City High School, offered the audience her perspective on the pros and cons of technology and how it impacts teens.  A pro of texting, she said, was that it can be easier for a teen to say ‘no’ to a sexual request via text than in person.  And some questions are easier to ask parents via text.

The panel also looked at issues such as bullying, healthy relationships, and inclusivity.

“We need to look at the whole picture and there is more recognition and coordination around LGBT health [at the CDPHE],” said Greta Klingler with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  “We are just on the brink, but it is exciting to see that are moving that way.”

The event was put together to remind people that it takes a whole community to raise a healthy child, so it is vitally important for parents, community leaders and those who work with youth to understand the world our teens are facing.

Ten years ago Facebook didn’t exist; Twitter had yet to be invented, and cell phones were a form of technology owned primarily by adults.  Today 75 percent of those between the ages of 13-17 own a cell phone, and 87 percent of them sleep with it turned on by their bed.  In the United States it is estimated that individuals spend approximately 6 billon hours per month online.  Nearly 73 percent of online teens and an equal number 72 percent of young adults use social network sites.  One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages a day, or 3000 texts a month.

The advent of these new technologies combined with a constant barrage of sexual imagery in advertising, prime time television and all forms of popular media has created new obstacles to “the talk” that weren’t there just a decade ago.

The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Responsible Sex Education Institute, sponsored the event.  The Alliance and the Institute thank all panelists, the Denver School of Science and Technology, and CBS’s 4 Gloria Neal, the event’s moderator, for making this event possible.

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Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains empowers individuals and families in the communities we serve to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health by providing high quality health services, comprehensive sex education, and strategic advocacy. More than 123,000 women, men, and young adults annually visit our 28 health centers throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Southern Nevada, and Wyoming. Since 1916, we have been the region’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. For more information about Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, call 1.800.230.PLAN or visit pprm.org for the health center nearest you.

The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance seeks to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, in Colorado youth by ensuring that all young people have access to science-based, comprehensive, medically-accurate, culturally sensitive, and age-appropriate sexuality education, information and resources to make informed decisions about their health and relationships.

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