by C. Mitchell Shaw, The New American:
RICHMOND — Liberal Democrat Governor Ralph Northam has introduced an initiative to allow kids to text questions about sex — including questions about sexual activity, safe sex, contraception, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, relationships, and “gender identity” — to adults.
What could possibly go wrong?
Perhaps as disturbing as the sex textline itself is the marketing used to promote it. Slick, teen-targeted postcards promoting Governor Northam’s Brds’N’Bz have been mailed to addresses all over Virginia. Those postcards are designed with artwork geared toward teens. It shows teens using mobile phones and taking selfies.
The text on the front reads:
Have questions about sex, STIs, contraception, or relationships? Text TALK2MEVA to 66746 to get answers from a certified health educator within 24 hours. This textline is free and anonymous for any teen!”
On the reverse side, the postcard shows five teens — three girls and two boys of various ethnic groups — using their mobile phones.
The word bubbles above the teens say,
Have a QUESTION about Brds ‘N’Bz? Use a free and anonymous sexual health textline for teens. Get answers about relationships, contraception, sex, pregnancy, STIs, sexuality, + more!
It also directs teens to text Talk2MeVa to 66746 and includes the logos for both the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
Before getting into the sex textline itself, let’s spend a few minutes unpacking the postcard. The teen-oriented graphics appear cleverly designed to make this postcard look and feel very appealing to young people. The postcards are actually addressed to teens living at the addresses to which they are mailed. The multi-cultural cartoon drawings of both boys and girls of various racial groups is clearly intended to cast a wide net to gather as many teens as possible.
As disturbing as all of that is, though, the fact that two of the teens are seen taking pictures of themselves is a real shocker. Surrounded by text about sexuality, the selfie element takes on a whole new meaning. By joining those two things, VDH and ASHA are guilty of sending a subtle message to teens about violating the basic rules of safe use of technology. In the context of sex, the idea of teens taking selfies should raise red flags for anyone paying attention. The psychological affect of combining those elements serves to connect them in the minds of kids who are — because of their biological level of mental development — already prone to taking risks without counting the costs. Given the data about teen “sexting” that is widely available — and therefore, certainly known by anyone who is a “certified health educator” — one should be able to expect the adults at VDH and ASHA to at least keep those things separate.
But then, one should also be able to expect those adults to leave the moral education of kids to parents. And that is the real issue with this campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to make an end-run around parental authority where moral training is concerned. This is especially interesting since the ASHA website includes a page about parents talking to their kids about sex. The button leading to that page says, “You are your child’s most important teacher. Be an askable parent.”
The page itself is filled from margin to margin with advice, beginning with, “Educating a child about sexual health is an important part of his or her healthy development. Their early understanding of sex, love, intimacy and their own sexuality can help mold their values, behavior, and even their self-image, for a lifetime.” The page also asks, “Does your child feel it’s okay to talk with you about sex and sexual health? If not, have you thought about who will answer your child’s questions?”
This mass-mailed postcard to teens across Virginia is apparently the answer to that question — “anonymous” adults (i.e., strangers) will be the ones “who will answer your child’s questions” about sex and sexuality — making them the ones who will provide guidance on “sex, love, intimacy and their own sexuality” and “mold their values, behavior, and even their self-image, for a lifetime.”
The state and its approved organizations are the new parents. Marx would be proud.
This writer asked several parents of teens and children in Virginia whether they were aware of the postcards and campaign. Some were, but many were not. Those who were were very upset and concerned. So were those who weren’t — once I shared the postcard with them. They are not alone. One pro-family organization in Virginia — the Richmond-based Family Foundation — is taking action to expose and shut down the textline.