Teens Create PSAs for Other Teens
Making a PSA (actually two)
Who could possibly connect with teens about sex and relationships better than other teens?
That’s the theory behind Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic bringing together a dozen high school students to create two public service announcements. The messages would be shared on the Internet and encourage thousands of teens to change their behavior.
Could that really happen? Is social media really that powerful?
Minutes into the first workshop, a short video showed the answer is yes. Look what happens to poor Jimmy when he tries to get a job and his employer looks up his Facebook page during the interview. Was that night of partying really worth it?
The project was part of PPHP’s Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program. The point was to ride the wave of new media, using digital technology to get teens to deliver a message to other teens about sexual health.
“We want to give young people a chance to have a bigger voice in this world,” said Victoria, one of the program facilitators from MyMediaLife.
The teens – six boys and six girls – quickly bonded over name games and quizzes to win lottery points they could redeem for gift cards and other prizes. Dubbing themselves the Original Sex Avengers, they sought inspiration by watching other PSAs on YouTube. One that used humor to promote the use of condoms got one million hits!
They learned about the “anatomy” of a PSA – that is Audience, Problem/Solution, and Strategy – and brainstormed lists of potential topics to create their own. They ruled out anything that had nothing to do with sexual health, so out went bullying, winning the lottery, good food, and racism.
The teens quickly discovered they were learning about more than making a movie. Regular check-ins on the Trigg-o-Meter scale showed participants’ level of reactivity and a lesson on the make-up of the brain explained how we make choices, and how giving or receiving support triggers pleasure-causing chemical reactions in the body. Encouraged to give positive feedback to each other, the teens took to giving out “likes” (cards) when someone said something positive or helpful.
Meditation sessions had a calming effect and “lightning rounds” of questions had the group competing to answer questions about the development of the first cellphone, smartphone, etc., and the definition of new media (many people communicating to many others).
They divided into two groups based on an exercise about values and ended up with girls in one and boys in the other. Brainstorming ideas for a social marketing campaign, they wrote out possible scenarios. They each picked a role with the help of lottery tickets: producer, writer, casting, music, researcher, and stylist.
The girls settled on healthy relationships and three aspects they could illustrate through the experiences of different couples: feeling respected, showing appreciation, and telling the truth. The boys decided to show the importance of protection and communication in sexual relationships.
Both groups took their ideas and went to work adding detail and creating more final scripts. Kenny, the program facilitator (and also a stand-up comedian), showed how to write a script for film in a “blind person sort of way.” You get a piece of paper and on the left put what is seen, and on the right, what is heard.
Lessons included finding props and music, identifying locations, planning a casting call. Professional actors were selected for most roles - a few teens were recruited as well. Two days of filming with a professional crew and some editing through the group’s Facebook page, and voila! Two films were created.
“You guys just rocked out. We just made two movies,” said Kenny.
Watch a behind-the-scenes video about “The Making of a PSA (Actually Two)”
“We’re getting our voice heard. Others can take what you’re teaching them in the video and apply it to their own lives.” -- Rashad
“At first I was scared but you can open up and express how you feel without people judging.” LaLa
“I think teens will listen because it’s coming from other teens. When you look at adult commercials, they’re boring.” - Kimberly
“People will change their minds about coming to Planned Parenthood. People would have thought they’d only come here for an abortion or pregnancy test, but watching the video they’ll say ‘oh yeah, maybe I can learn how not to get pregnant or get HIV.’” -- Lucero