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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