Via RH Reality Check, I’ve learned about the awesome SexInfo. Launched in San Francisco by Internet Sexuality Infomartion Services (ISIS), SexInfo lets teens receive health information via text message when they send numerical codes for common questions–1 for a broken condom, 6 if you’re not sure you want to have sex, and so on. While the texts require minimal effort on the part of teens, the messages they receive in response fully utilize the character limit. Responses include clinic addresses, hours and phone numbers, and a brief (often empowering) message to the teen, like “It’s ur choice 2 have sex or not.”
I can see huge potential here for libraries. According to RH Reality check,
Isis’ efforts to advertise the program ranged from flyers and bus shelter ads to getting a popular local hip-hop artist to help spread the world — but their community partnerships with clergy, juvenile justice groups, and health educators were particularly vital. They plan to spread the program, with variations, to DC and Toronto within the next year, and further after that.
How about community partnerships with libraries? The reference interview can be particularly sticky when it comes to medical information in general, with nervous patrons sidling up to the desk with a question like “Do you have any books on diseases?” when the real problem is “What do I do about this rash?” And for teens already feeling like they live in a fishbowl, asking about sexual health brings up huge issues of privacy and confidentiality. Ta da! Coded text messaging with quick, reliable results! I really hope libraries in San Francisco think to publicize SexInfo (discreetly, of course) in their young adult sections.
Now, I can already hear parental objections. With the popularity of websites like Teen Chat Decoder, it’s clear that some adults are getting freaked out by teen cell phone use. (My opinion? If your kid doesn’t feel comfortable talking with you about sexual health, you have bigger problems than figuring out the code.)
But if health professionals can use text messages to remind patients to take their birth control, couldn’t libraries be using text messages to send overdue and hold notices, or remind the youth advisory board about the meeting on Wednesday night?