In an “always online” culture, it is increasingly important to communicate with and engage audiences where they’re plugged in. At Cone, we define new media as “technology-facilitated dialoguesm among stakeholders.” Engaging audiences through technology is a powerful tool to increase awareness of issues. In fact, The New York Times recently highlighted an organization using new media - the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPC), whose innovative Birds and Bees Text Line offers information to curious teenagers about sexual heath on their mobile devices.
The state faces growing teenage pregnancy rates and risky behaviors - issues that weren’t being mitigated by traditional classroom education. The APPC knew its target audience of 14-19 year-olds had mobile phones, and that the anonymity provided by text messaging would offer a safe and comfortable forum to ask difficult questions about sexual health. The choice of mobile devices as a communications tool shows the APPC understands new media is less “build it and they will come” and more “build it where they already are.” APPC health educators respond to text inquiries within 24 hours, and refer to the service as “sex ed on their turf” - therefore creating a dialogue with teens as opposed to talking at them.
Unlike similar programs in other cities and states, the program provides for one-to-one interaction, demonstrating that new media can still be an intimate forum for communication. The Birds and Bees Text Line is only a piece of a larger strategic plan to educate teens about sexual health beyond the classroom, but it has allowed the organization to reach its target audience more effectively and in a way that is culturally relevant.