Planned Parenthood Toronto
initiative invites Toronto teens to text in their sexual health-related questions.
"We know that teens text and that it is one of their primary methods of communication," explains Sarah Hobbs-Blyth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto. "We wanted to find a way for them to get the information that they need in a way that they are already comfortable with."
Anything related to sexual health is fair game, from pregnancy to relationships to puberty. The kinds of issues teens often desperately need answers to, but might be too afraid or too embarrassed to ask.
The new text messaging service not only allows teens to ask personalized questions, it also allows for a back-and-forth between users of the service and the trained peer volunteers who respond. Teens can thus follow up or seek clarification about the information provided.
Hobbes says that by allowing teens to text rather then to call in or show up in person, it adds another layer of anonymity, thus creating a safer space.
"One may fear embarrassment or judgment when posing such questions in person and at PPT," she says. While providing a non-judgmental space is at the core of the PPT mandate, the extra anonymity, says Hobbes, "is really what sets this service apart from others."
The texting service is the first of its kind in Canada, and is based on a similar successful program launched by San Francisco's Internet Sexuality Information Services Inc.
Still in its nascent stages, PPT is busy promoting the new service on Facebook and Twitter as well as through printed materials that will be distributed at schools, PPT workshops and other youth-serving organizations.
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Sarah Hobbs-Blyth, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Toronto