Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Power of the Media

Have a few extra minutes? Go to Google and enter “media and sex.” Not surprisingly, there are a few hits on the topic – 254,000,000 to be exact. Some are commentaries on the relationships between the two, some are blogs, some highlight results of a recent study from the RAND Corporation indicating that high exposure to sexual media may lead to higher rates of pregnancy among teens. I know, I know… you’re shocked by that fact.

We must always remember that the media isn’t in the business of providing responsible sex education – instead, sex is used to get your attention. Sure enough, a deeper exploration of your “media and sex” search will lead to one of the more than 420 million (that’s six 0’s) pornographic pages on the net. This figure doesn’t even account for the massive impact of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites. Facebook currently has over 200 million active users, MySpace topped the 100 million user mark three years ago and the 140-character craze known as Twitter is listed as the fastest growing website in the “member communities” category.

It would be easy at this point to blame the media for high rates of adolescent sexual risk taking behavior, but rather shouldn’t we be asking ourselves how to “get in the game?”  The SC Campaign is committed to doing exactly that. While we haven’t exactly figured out the who, what, and how - our new and improved website is step one in an ongoing process. Over the next several months you will see a complete integration of our website with pages on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. We are also finishing work on a stand-alone website for young people. All of this to help us get to a point where the media isn’t the enemy, but rather a powerful tool that can be used for good. Why can’t we stop pointing fingers and start using the media as a way to distribute positive messages about sexuality and responsible decision making to young people?

Indeed, the media does have a power that we must harness and use to our advantage. The opportunity is upon us and the day in South Carolina is coming when media will be used as a prevention tool… it has to! Facebook pages linking youth to adolescent friendly health services… websites designed to deliver comprehensive, medically accurate information about love, sex and relationships directly to young people… Tweets about upcoming programs… it’s all possible and it’s all coming soon. For now, enjoy our new website and be sure to visit us often. We have a lot to share and lot to discuss with you.

By: Forrest Alton, Executive Director of the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Poverty in America

Given the slow and halting pace of recovery from the Great Recession, it is not surprising that the US Census report on poverty in America showed a significant increase in the percent of people living in poverty – 14.3% compared to 13.2% in 2008. What does it mean to be counted as poor? In 2009, a family of two adults and two children would be considered poor if the household income was below $21,756.

The poverty rate has not been higher in the past 15 years, since 1994. Poverty data isn’t available for South Carolina from 2009, but judging from past trends, South Carolina’s rates are likely to be far higher than the national rates of poverty. Regionally, the South (including South Carolina) had 15.7% of people living in poverty in 2009.

As is typically the case, more children suffer from poverty than any other age group – 20.7% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty across the country compared to 12.9% of people between the ages of 18-64. We know that childhood poverty is linked to academic, emotional, social and physical problems (see ChildTrends Poverty and Children 2009) and we know that teen pregnancy is inextricably linked to poverty. Two-thirds of families begun by young unmarried mothers are poor. Teen pregnancy is the leading cause of high school dropout among girls and only 38% of mothers who have children before the age of 18 will earn a high school diploma. Poor education leads to poor employment possibilities and about a quarter of teen moms will receive public assistance within three years of their child being born (see National Campaign Why it Matters for these stats and more information on the connection between teen pregnancy and poverty).

While there are many ways to address poverty in America, from job training and education to restructuring public assistance, we know that teen parenthood tremendously burdens young people. While the poverty news is not good, what is good news is that for the first time, an unprecedented amount of federal funding will be travelling to communities across the country to tackle teen pregnancy. If successful, fewer young people will have to struggle with teen pregnancy, which could greatly improve their chances to avoid poverty.

by: Shannon Flynn, Director of Researcha and Evaluation, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review Time

By now the routine is down! The alarm clock goes off, breakfast is fixed, backpacks are loaded (“Has anyone seen my math homework?” “I can’t find my history book!”) At last the car is loaded and another day of school is off and running.

Even in classes there has been a routine. Roll is called so the teacher can learn all the names; all the extra-curricular activities are getting underway; there has even been a pep rally! And of course the teachers have spent the last few weeks reminding students of all the things they learned last year but somehow misplaced during summer vacation.

I remember those day sitting in class (for me it was always a math class) when the teacher (or professor) would say, “You learned this last year, so let’s review quickly…” And before I could figure out what he was saying, and discover that not only did I not remember the information I didn’t even remember learning it in the first place—we had moved on to something new!
And I wonder why I am not a nuclear physicist!

Teachers understand that we need to review the information! Students need to hear again the things we taught them last year—even if they know it, because it still serves as the base for everything that is going to happen this year. We know that!

Except when it comes to talking with our children about sex.
I mean, after all, didn’t his father talk to him last year when they went to the football game? They had “The Talk!” Didn’t her mother tell her about all that stuff. Our daughter doesn’t need to be reminded. We told her.

As adults we often forget that sexuality isn’t “The Talk,” but an ongoing conversation. The Middle Schooler who dared ask a question about plumbing now needs to have a conversation about values, and decision-making. That girl who thought boys were yucky in Elementary school is now getting calls from High School Seniors and is really flattered by it, but still can’t quite figure out what is going on.

Even though they act like they know it all (and didn’t we???) they are just as terrified and confused as I was when our calculus professor started talking about Max-Min problems. (I still don’t know what he was talking about!) But he took the time to review—and I remember that!
As parents, maybe this is the time for us to do a review as well. Use the teacher line, “I know you already know this and we have talked about this before, but…” Your kids will roll their eyes, say, “Oh Dad I know that!”

But they will be grateful. Because they really don’t know where their prostate gland is or how to tell that senior that they are just not comfortable with what he is asking. All their other teachers are reviewing. Maybe we as their most important teachers, their parents, need to do some reviewing as well!

by: Don Flowers, Former Board Chair and Pastor of Providence Baptist Church
contact Don: