There's much to be said for the importance of healthy parent-child communication. From drugs and alcohol to sex, the benefits of open discussion are proven, but what happens when technology advances so much that it entirely changes this dynamic?
That's the question being asked in some states after private text-messaging services have launched to answer teens' questions about the "birds and the bees."
One such provider, fittingly called "BrdsNBz," is already being offered in North Carolina and New Mexico. A New Mexico Department of Health webpage setup to advertise the text-based tool explains its intentions and the means through which young people can have their sex-related curiosities answered by professionals.
"The BrdsNBz Text Message Warm Line provides confidential, factually accurate answers to sexual health questions via text message," reads an official description. "A young person simply texts a question, and a trained health educator responds within 24 hours."
Image source: New Mexico Department of Health
BrdsNBz is a tool reserved for teens between the ages of 13 and 19 who live in New Mexico (for kids living in North Carolina, the age range is 14 to 19). If they have questions about sex, young people can follow some simple directions and a "health educator" will offer a confidential and free response.
From the risk of sexual activity to dispelling common myths, BrdsNBz has multiple uses for young people. Even some of the simpler questions about relationships -- curiosities that teens have traditionally asked parents and friends (i.e. "How to know if someone likes you?" and "How should I ask someone out?") -- can be posed to these experts.
The service does note some of its limitations though. Issues pertaining to sexual technique will not be discussed and diagnoses will also not be given.
"We cannot diagnose medical issues like HIV, STDs, and/or pregnancy. We will refer a user to seek the help of a medical professional for a diagnosis and care. We inform them of their rights and of local resources," explains the New Mexico Department of Health website.
While some critics will see the tool and others like it as an over-reach and one that places barriers in parental-child communication, others will note that it's essential, especially for young people who don't have a viable support system.
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On one hand, it's important to foster positive discussion and for parents to be aware of what their kids are doing. On the other, some others make the argument that kids are uncomfortable speaking to their parents and guardians and so they will need to get the information elsewhere.
"I have an 11-year-old. I try to explain things to him, and he's like, 'Mommmm, stop!' so I understand," Valerie Fisher, who works for New Mexico's health department, told CNN. "This is a great tool. It educates teens, they learn some things maybe they didn't know, and it even helps them ask their parents better questions."
New Mexico has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, which is one of the many reasons the tool is being used. North Carolina has been using the same program since 2009 and California has something similar called HookUp 365247.
What do you think of BrdsNBz? Let us know below.
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