Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monkey See Monkey Do Mentality

We’re taught throughout life to follow examples- in kindergarten we are shown a red block and told to find a block that looks just like it; in 3rd grade we’re shown multiplication tables, taught to memorize, and told to practice doing them over and over. In high school we sit in the passenger seat and watch the Driver’s Ed teacher maneuver the Ford Focus through orange cones in the parking lot at 5 miles per hour and, you guessed it, we were told to zig zag through those same orange cones. Naturally, we grow up following examples and doing what we see others doing- good and bad.

Today, in our society we are no longer shocked when we see MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Secret Life of an American Teenager, Baby Borrowers, Juno, The Pregnancy Pact and countless other television shows and movies tell “real life” stories about teenagers having children and surviving. Not only do we tolerate shows, movies, news reports, rumors around school and offices about teenagers getting pregnant or having unprotected sex, but we glorify it. So why are we completely in shock and awe when the teen pregnancy rates are rising? We have, after all, taught our youth (and everyone else) to just do what you see, right?

When it comes to sexual health education, it may be easier to tell youth “don’t get pregnant”; “don’t have sex” etc. But then, they are only provided “no” messages, and left alone to find their own positive examples to mimic. If we could change our negative “don’t” messages into positive “do” messages, it seems like finding healthy, safe examples for sexual health education would be much easier: “Do ask about healthy relationships”; “Do go to your local health clinic”; “Do talk about/mimic healthy relationships”. Messages from the media won’t change over night. But the messages you are sending to the youth around you can.
by: Katie Duffy, Graduate Assitant, Training & Technical Assistance
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