Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Awakening: Adolescents Today and 100 Years Ago

Last week several Campaign staffers attended the Broadway touring production of Spring Awakening at the Peace Center in Greenville, SC. That it was a wonderful and passionate production is not surprising – the show won 8 Tony awards and has received incredible reviews. What was surprising to me is that a musical based on a play written in 1891 in Germany could be as relevant and timely as if it were written today. Just as today, youth want the freedom to discover who they are and need the tools – information, education, guidance – to do it without destroying themselves.

The musical deals with the transition from childhood to adulthood in a world that is too rigid to allow them to really figure out who they are and they are guided by adults who at best seem benignly misguided and at worst are sadistic. The show follows the lives of several teens who confront just about every difficult issue there is – sex, child abuse, pregnancy, expulsion from school and conflict with parents. My husband studied German literature in college and gave me a brief history of the play’s origins, which I thought was pretty cool in terms of what it means for the show we saw. Apparently, at the same time the play was produced, Germany was confronting the industrial revolution which displaced more agrarian and rural ways of life – at the same time there were growing disparities of wealth and the mechanization of work, which also made peoples’ work more like being a cog in a wheel. This growing discontent created a society in conflict where the old order was still in control, but cracks in the order were developing. The younger generation wants something different and in their rebellion they expose the flaws in the system. This natural rebellion and exploration is ultimately crushed. By the end, innocence has been tarnished, lives lost, families destroyed.

Most poignantly, the show opens with a young girl begging her mother to tell her where babies come from and her mother just can’t bring herself to do it. Without knowing the risks involved, the girl has sex, becomes pregnant, and ultimately dies of a botched abortion. That the musical feels as fresh and relevant as it does partially speaks to the vision of the director and lyricist. However, it also points to how hard it is to be a teen – always – and how hard it is to be a parent. And, just as industrial Germany was in conflict between the old and new ways, our country is also experiencing conflict about what is the right way to do things and how to adapt to the new technologies that are changing our lives. It was a wonderful thing to see so many parents/ adults with young people watching the play together. Hopefully, this can be a moment where arts and culture can lead to having some conversations about what it means to be young, how to live your life fully, and how to protect yourself from the fates of the youth in Spring Awakening.

by: Shannon Flynn, Director of Research and Evaluation
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life Unexpected Tackles "The Talk"

Who has been watching Life Unexpected on the CW?  It is now one of my favorite shows.  Here is a brief overview to get you up to speed.

After spending her life bouncing from one foster family to another, 15-year-old Lux has decided to become an emancipated minor. Her journey through the legal maze leads Lux to her biological father, 30-something Nate "Baze" Bazile, who lives like an aging frat-boy and is astonished to learn he has a daughter. Lux is equally astonished to learn that her mother is Cate Cassidy, a star on local radio. When a judge grants temporary custody of Lux to Baze and Cate, they agree to make a belated attempt to give Lux the family she deserves.

As you can tell by doing a little subtraction, Lux is the child of teen parents who gave her up for adoption at birth.  In the first few episodes they have been navigating murky waters to figure out their situation and how to proceed from here.  To date, Lux is living with her father, who on last night's episode sat her down to have "The Talk".  Come to find out, he was too late - Lux was already sexually experienced.

The awkward conversation that was had by the two of them ended with Lux telling Baze that she hadn't had sex with her winter formal date nor did she plan on having sex with her winter formal date.  Baze literally clapped his hands and said "Great, good talk."

Now how often do we hear about "The Talk" playing out in this manner?  There are a couple of things to note.  First of all, there shouldn't be just one talk.  It shouldn't be this big bad conversation that has to take place to make the adult feel better.  Instead, caring adults should look for teachable moments - moments in life that can be used as conversation starters about love, sex and relationships.  As Baze found out, when you wait around to have "The Talk" sometimes you are too late.  Conversations about these topics should start early and be consistent.

Visit our Parent Portal to hear from other parents and read tips for talking with your young person about love, sex and relationships.

by: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
contact Cayci:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Have You Joined the March?

Nearly 2,400 people have signed up for Tell Them's Virtual March that will take place on March 23, 2010.  In tough economic times, it is important that we all have our voices heard, so take a moment and sign up for the first-ever Virtual March in Support of responsible, reproductive health policies.
So how does it work?  Here are the details taken from Tell Them's website.

The march will take place beginning at noon on March 23 until noon on March 24. During this 24-hour period, people who have signed up for the march will email their representatives, letting them know they stand with the majority of South Carolinians who support age appropriate, medically accurate sexual health information and access to counseling and clinical services.

Tell Them will send you a pre-formatted, pre-addressed email targeting your legislators on the morning of March 23. All you’ll have to do is hit “send.” Of course, you can edit and add your own comments to the email message. This is just their way of making it as easy as possible for you to participate.
So it's that simple!  Sign up today and encourage others to do the same

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grocery List: Milk, Bread, Condoms...

As I was on my way to work this morning and scanning radio stations, I heard a story being told about Ryan Phillippe and I immediately was all ears. The big news was that Ryan Phillippe was recently shopping for condoms in a store and he was supposedly heckled so badly that he dropped his basket and ran out of the store. This story got me thinking about two things, A) Doesn’t Ryan Phillippe have “people” that buy stuff for him? and B) If Ryan Phillippe is too uncomfortable to purchase condoms, then what is that saying about our young people’s experience purchasing condoms? The story of Ryan Phillippe is just an example of how sales persons and other shoppers in a retail environment can truly prevent people, especially young people, to purchase condoms. Purchasing condoms seems simple enough, right?

I am sure that when anyone mentions the issue of condom availability, the first thing to come to your mind is a health clinic. However, health clinics are not the only access point for young people to purchase condoms. It should be recognized that there are multiple access points for young people to purchase condoms, including retail locations. So what do we know about the environment of these retail locations? Is it easy for young people to get condoms? Are young people being refused to purchase condoms? Are there other young people experiencing the same thing that Ryan Phillippe experienced? There is very little data on the “adolescent friendliness” of retail locations in regards to condom access for young people. Some retail locations are open 24 hours a day, which means that young people could have access to low-cost condoms at any time during the day or night.

It is important that as we live and work in a community that we remember that our young people have the right to protect themselves and have access to tools that keep them safe. It is our responsibility as community members, business owners, local leaders and citizens to provide safe and friendly spaces for young people to access services and information. The story of Ryan Phillippe is one that many young people can relate to and have possibly encountered in their own experience. So think about it….you may not directly work with youth and your organization may not directly be related to teen pregnancy but what can you do to make your organization more adolescent friendly? What experience does your environment provide to young people?
Young people have enough stressors and social pressures, why can’t we just make it comfortable for them to go to the store to pick up milk, bread …and condoms?

In response to the abovementioned research needs, the Campaign has recently begun a new project called “Secret Shopper”. The purpose of this project is to assess the teen friendliness of retail locations by sending in young people to purchase condoms as ‘secret shoppers’. We have conducted this project in counties across South Carolina. The Campaign is currently analyzing the results of this project and will be disseminating the findings within the coming months. The Campaign is confident that the results from this project will provide valuable data about the friendliness of retail locations and the extent to which condoms are available at retail locations to young people throughout the state.

by: Sarah Kershner, MPH, CHES, Reserach and Evaluation Specialist
Contact Sarah:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Thin Line

It’s no secret that today’s teens are growing up in a world where digital communication is viral, especially regarding cell phone usage. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 58% of 12 year olds reported owning a cell phone in 2009, a 40% increase from 2004. Social networking sites like Facebook have also grown in popularity, with 73% of teens ages 12-17 reporting using an online social network.

While the continual advent of new technology such as the iPod, Facebook and Twitter, offer many benefits, they have also created a new wave of digital harassment. As the news media have pointed out, sexting and cyberbullying are everyday issues in the hallways across America’s high schools. Mainstream media has taken note of these recent technological trends and MTV along with several national partners has launched A Thin Line campaign. The campaign is designed to empower teens to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse among teens and their peers. Through discussion boards, video diaries and Q&As, the campaign demonstrates the negative consequences of digital communication and encourages teens to stand up and take control. Check out the site and see how these same forms of digital communication that have led to such issues of cyberbullying and sexting are now being utilized to combat them.

by: Jessica Cooper, Public Awareness Graduate Assistant
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