From Birds and Bees to BrdsNBz-Sex Education by cellphone

 Since earlier this year, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) began providing an awesome service for teenagers called the BrdsNBz Text Message Warm Line.  BrdsNBz is a free service that allows teens in North Carolina to text a question about sex, sexual health, and relationships – receiving a response within 24 hours.  APPCNC’s overall goal for the BrdsNBz is summarized below:

Through the BrdsNBz Text Message Warmline, APPCNC will provide North Carolina teens with a personalized, nonjudgmental, medically accurate answer to those hard-to ask questions about sex, love, health and dating.

On the facebook page, they market the service to us teenagers:

Teens: Text your question to 36263 today. Be sure to put "nc" in front of your question - like, "nc How do I put on a condom?" We will provide you with a confidential, accurate, personalized answer within 24 hours. Sex, love, dating problems, sexuality, STDs, pregnancy, anatomy - we've heard it all! The only thing we can't tell you is "how-to..." Answers are free, but your phone's text message rates might apply.”

Awesome! Kudos to APPCNC for this amazing service.  You can access their facebook page here and their website here.  APPCNC and the BrdsNBz were even featured by  the New York Times - a great story that is very interesting.  Check it outhere.  

Even though the North Carolina recently passed the Healthy Youth Act (HYA)– adding a comprehensive component to public school sex education - most high schools (at least until the HYA takes effect) teach abstinence-only sex education.  This leaves teens with a lot of unanswered questions, because the abstinence-only teachers have to follow a strict “just say no” script for most curricula.  I am 16, and know many young people who have had abstinence-only sex education.

In abstinence -only, questions like “where can I get birth control,” “do condoms work”, or “how can I prevent HIV” are met with oftentimes vague and unclear answers. The answers you get in Ab-only exaggerate the risks and give misinformation, like saying that HIV is can be spread through tears and that condoms fail a majority of the time. In the amazing report “Just Say Don’t Know”, researches go over some of the curriculum found in abstinence-only sex ed:

Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, “Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads – they may protect you some.” (page 21 of report)

A number of abstinence-only curricula repeat the decades-old and widely discredited canard “HIV is so small it passes through a condom.” The FACTS curriculum (used in 20 districts) provides one common version of this argument: 

"Any imperfections in the contraceptive not visible to the eye could allow sperm, STD or HIV to pass through the latex...If a sperm cell can get through, how much more can the HIV virus only 1/450th the size of a sperm!"

This kind of misinformation is very damaging, and is counterproductive as a way to prevent teens from getting pregnant, from having sex, or just making healthy decisions to lead them into young adulthood.  Many major research studies conducted on abstinence-only programs in the past 5 years demonstrate that abstinence-only programs do not reduce teen pregnancy rates or STI rates.  More startling in fact, some abstinence-only programs actually INCREASE these rates.  Advocates For Youth has some great research on abstinence-only versus comprehensive sex education programs, for that click here

 BrdsNBz gives ACCURATE information, and this is much needed here in NC.  Look at some of the frequently asked questions and APPCNC’s answers below.  As you can see, we clearly have a lot we want to know as teenagers about how to make healthy decisions and remain safe:

Question: “How long do you think a person should wait to have sex with someone?
Answer: That depends on the person. It varies from person to person and your relationship. It can depend on whether you trust the person and what you'd like to see come out of the relationship. When you choose to have sex, you should be mature and prepared to handle the consequences of your action

Question: Is normal to masturbate?

Answer: It is perfectly natural and normal and recommended by many experts because it helps you to understand your own body and what you enjoy sexually. As long as you're not doing it to the exclusion of eating, sleeping and normal social interaction, you are perfectly fine.

Question: Where can you find condoms?

Answer: Your local drugstore, pharmacy or local health dept can all provide you with them.

Question: I've had sex with multiple people - should I get tested?

Answer: Yes. If you are sexually active, please get tested for free confidentially at your local health department. Do you need the #? You can text me back the area of the state where you live.

Question: What is the best ways to prevent pregnancy

Answer: Abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy . However if you're going to have sex, condoms will prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Also there is the Pill or the female condom. See your doctor to help you choose the best method for you.

Question: If I was raped when I was little and just had sex was it technically my first time when I was raped or when I recently had sex?
Answer. Your first time is whatever you make it. There is no "right" answer: I believe your first time can be many things (good, bad, fun, embarrassing, wonderful) but it should never be nonconsensual. Your first time is the first time you choose to have sex, not when another person forces you.

 Question: I don’t believe in having sex does that make me gay?

Answer: Being gay is a matter of being sexually attracted to a member of the same sex, not whether or not you want to have sex or are having sex. You are not gay unless you are attracted to members of the same sex.



Question: I like boys but I also like girls. What should I do?

Answer: Well, there's nothing cut and dry about sexuality. Some people exclusively like the opposite sex and some exclusively like the same sex. Some people just like who they like. If you have feelings for both guys and girls then you might be bisexual. Only you can know for sure and only you know what is right for you. There are no easy answers.

: When we are having sex, is a condom really necessary if I pull out?

Answer: By pulling out you actually still risk getting her pregnant ( assuming she is not using another form of birth control) because there is a 'pre-cum' or 'pre-ejaculate' that is secreted before you ejaculate and it can contain sperm. Also without the condom, you are at risk for spreading sexually transmitted diseases (and you may have one without knowing), unless you have been tested, because symptoms are not always apparent. Truly the more or 'most' loving thing you could do is to use a condom-it shows you care about her, her health and that you value yourself as well.

As we get older and prepare for adulthood, we naturally will explore our own sexuality; there are lots of questions that come up regarding pregnancy, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, masturbation, etc.  Withholding information does not benefit anyone. In fact, treating teenagers with respect and giving teens accurate information is the best way to go.  Kudos to APPCNC for developing the BrdsNBz Text Message Warm Line. I encourage those of you in North Carolina to text your questions to the BrdsNBZ and I hope that you find it useful. 



Thanks for this Dan

I'm passing this information along to my teen daughters.

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