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The Power of the Internet
More than ever before, young people in Mexico and around the world are using the internet to research contraceptives and other reproductive health issues. This brings a new level of responsibility to information technology, particularly social media.
Websites, mobile applications, and social networking sites should strive to educate users, providing up-to-date, reliable, and unbiased information to young people on what services are available, how they work, and where to access them. One great resource is CIES Educa, which offers comprehensive information in Spanish on sexual and reproductive health topics. Another is Tú Decides, a youth-run Bolivian website providing information for peers on sexual and reproductive rights, and sharing new projects and programs for young people.
Perhaps most importantly, these electronic resources can be used to provide peer-to-peer support and to dispel harmful myths on topics relating to sexual and reproductive health. There is great need for this. In Bolivia, 65% of adolescent girls have had at least one pregnancy. Half of these girls were 15-19 years old, and three out of every five pregnancies were unintended. This is likely connected to the fact that only 44% of pre-teens between 10 and 12 participated in comprehensive sexuality education programs in 2008.
Clearly, there is a serious need for greater knowledge on family planning information and services. Youth may be more likely to absorb this information if it comes from a peer, who is likely going through similar experiences. Interactive spaces provide young people with a safe, secure place to anonymously ask questions and express themselves without fear of shame or stigma.
Along these lines, health center staff at colleges and universities can use online platforms to provide essential information to students about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Often, health centers are the first places that students look to for these resources, and so it’s important that information and services are presented in an accessible way. Young people should be encouraged to choose freely and opt for the contraceptive method most convenient for them.
Moving forward, we can use the internet to collaborate and form partnerships in order to make great strides for young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. We should be proud of the successful interventions that have been made, and look to technology as a way to work together now and in the future.
Alan Deivid Figueroa Frías is a member of our youth network and the Associate Director at CIES, our local partner in Bolivia.