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Teens urged to text sex questions
By: Stephanie Guadian
NEW MEXICO - Teens are experts at texting. The New Mexico Department of Health is counting on that to help reduce the number of teen pregnancies. The state has just started the BrdsNBz program. Anyone aged 13 to 19 can text their questions about sex to a trained health educator. Some are calling it a sign of the technological times.
"No matter what you do, the kids are going to reach out. They are going to reach out to their friends, teachers, strangers, even. So, knowing that is there to help them is better than not at all," says Tanya Jaramillo.
The program promises medically accurate, nonjudgmental and confidential questions. But not everyone is sold on the idea of kids having the birds and bees talk with a stranger -- instead of their parents.
Some argue that conversation should stay in the family.
"I think it starts at home. Parents are not doing their job. And if they don't, then they need to go elsewhere. But then you have your relatives who should step in and help," said John Sellinger.
The health experts can answer questions like: What do certain slang terms mean? What are the risks of specific sexual activities? How does pregnancy occur? And how can I protect myself from HIV and STDs?
"For 13 year olds, the younger they are the less likely they are not going to go to their parents because they know they are going to get in trouble. So, at least they can go to someone who can give them an opinion of what they are doing. That's better than nothing," said Cheyenne Paul.
The service is available in English and Spanish. The answers are free, but a phone carrier's text message rates apply.
Teens can text NMTeen to 66746 to opt-in to the service. This is only done once. Questions can then be sent to 66746.
Parents can also take part in the program by texting NMParent to 66746. The experts will offer advice on how to talk to teens about sexual health.
Website: BrdsNBz Text Message