From the annual meeting of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, Los Angeles
Technology is all the rage at this meeting, themed “eTeens: Incorporating Technology and Health.” Adolescent medicine specialists have learned that e-mail is becoming passé for kids, but text messages and social networking are in-in-in. They’ve learned the definition of “sexting” (sending compromising pictures in phone messages) and discovered that new research suggests teens’ online lives, habits, and friendships pretty much reflect their offline lives. They’ve heard how new technology is being used to offer teens free chlamydia screening and how text messages can remind them to take their oral contraceptives.
But when it comes to their own tech acumen, these docs may need to enroll in Cool School. Speaker Deborah Levine of the nonprofit Internet Sexuality Information Service, invited the California audience to take out their mobile phones and text the message “HOOKUP” to an isis site (365247) that responds by sending back a message about sexually transmitted diseases: (“Meds cure chlamydia, gonorr & Syph… Herpes & HIV = viruses tt stay w/u 4eva. Text CLINIC + ur ZIP 4 CLINICS”). A few brave souls clicked away, but hundreds of specialists just chuckled or stared avoidantly at their meeting programs.
“We [as health professionals] need to think of technology as part of [adolescents’] lives that we can use from [fostering] prevention all the way through to treatment,” said Ms. Levine.
But the first step, she said, is getting in touch with the forms of media that adolescents use every waking hour of the day.
“Get familiar with your cell phones!” she exhorted, and stayed after the session to help specialists learn how to text.