By keeping in mind what we’re discovering about today’s teens, you can be even more effective at reaching kids with a convincing message.
Based on recent findings about Millennials, here are some points to consider:
GIVE TEENS A SENSE OF EMPOWERMENT
This group thinks they’re going to do great things, so play off of that in your messages. Emphasize that teens have both the ability and the opportunity to choose what their future will look like. Saving sex for marriage gives them the freedom to pursue their dreams. Parents and society should recognize teens’ tremendous potential and provide support and encouragement as they make healthier choices.
DELIVER A STRONG MESSAGE
In one recent survey, 93 percent of teens surveyed said they felt it was important for teens to be given a strong message from society that they should abstain from sex until they are at least out of high school.1
TELL TEENS THE TRUTH
They’re looking for it. They can handle it, and they should get it from a caring source. In order for teens to make smart choices about sex, they need to know what’s at risk. That means they need medically accurate information rooted in science, not emotion. They need to know that pregnancy, infertility and disease are all potential outcomes from sexual activity. They need to know that, when used every time, condoms at best only provide a 50 percent reduction in the transmission rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. They should be told that condoms do not appear to provide any protection from HPV (which causes 99 percent of all cervical cancer).2
KEEP THINGS POSITIVE
While the risks and ramifications of STDs must be clearly communicated, it’s also important to stress that abstinence is a positive choice — one that delays sex until it can be enjoyed fully without the unwanted emotional and physical consequences associated with STDs and multiple partners. This may help increase the chances of maintaining a happier and healthier marriage in the future.
RECOGNIZE THAT “VIRGIN” IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
Despite what many adults think, 87 percent of surveyed teens said they do not think it’s embarrassing to admit they’re virgins. Older teens actually claimed it was less embarrassing than younger teens.3
SHOW THE NUMBERS
Everbody is NOT doing it. Contrary to the popular myth, the numbers tell a different story — the truth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2001, only 45.6 percent of high school students had ever had sexual intercourse.4 That means the minority of high school students have had sex, and the majority have not. Between 1991-2001, the prevalence of sexual experience decreased 16 percent among high school students. 5
REINFORCE POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE
Peer acceptance is ver important to this group, so strive to communicate that healthy choices are the rule, rather than the exception, Spotlight the number of kids who are avoiding risky behaviors, as opposed to the number embracing them. “Social norming” can help kids feel like they fit in better when they choose to save sex for marriage.
RESPECT THE POWER OF PARENTS
In spite of the natural tensions that exist between parents and teens, theis generationstill has tremendous respect for mom and dad. According to a recent poll, when asked who they look up to the most, parents topped the list with 79 percent of the vote. 6 Given their influence, it’s important that parents understand and can articulate the value of abstinence to their teens.
MOTIVATE PARENTS TO TALK EARLY AND OFTEN
In a recent survey among teens, more than one-third said they have not had even one single helpful conversation with their parents about sex. 7 Parents need to be equipped with accurate information and encouraged to talk with their teens about sex – before everyone else does.
DON’T MAKE DANGEROUS ASSUMPTIONS
One of the most frustrating assumptions made by adults is the assumption that kids are going to be sexually active no matter what. Believe in teens and their ability to wait. A recent poll conducted for Time and Nickelodeon asked the question, “At what age do you think premarital sex is appropriate?” Parents responded 18 years old. Kids, on the other hand, said 23 years old! 8
Millennials: ARE THEY YOUR TARGET MARKET?
MILLENNIALS ARE OPTIMISTIC
This generation knows the world is counting on them. They want to do great things and know that they will. When designing messages to target this group of teens, remind them how much the world expects of them.
MILLENNIALS ARE CONFIDENT
Social marketing to this group of teens has got to be positive. Millennials are excited about the future and want to be taught about things in an upbeat manner. This generation is not risk driven. They have goals and realize that second best no longer cuts it. They’re not willing to risk their futures for short-term gratification.
MILLENNIALS ARE TEAM ORIENTED
When you ask this group of individuals what job attributes they think are most important they’ll state things like: getting along well with others, working well as part of a team, relating well with people of different races and ethnicities and being able to use a computer. Team and technology are the key words for this generation.
MILLENNIALS ARE CONVENTIONAL
They believe they are being held to a higher standard than adults. An astonishing amount of these youths agree with their parents’ values: 82 percent report having no problems with any family member. It’s important to remind these adolescents that other kids are doing things right. Instead of telling them how many kids are drinking, smoking and having sex, tell them how many are not. Social norming is an incredibly effective strategy in communicating with this generation of people. Remind them that there are normal kids in the world.
MILLENNIALS ARE ACHIEVERS
More teenagers are saying they want more challenging courses and higher standards in school curriculum – it is now cool to be smart. Advertising is now spotlighting kids who are effective at using their minds. Test scores are rising. To make your messages more effective, use objective facts to persuade, not emotion.
[from presentation by Neil Howe at The Medical Institute conference in CA in 2002. To learn more about the Millennial Generation, read Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by Neil Howe and William Strauss, New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2000.]
Citings from the first article on this webpage:
1) The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “The Cautious Generation?” April 27, 2000. Accessed at http://www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/data/pdf/cautious.pdf.
2) The Medical Institute for Sexual Health,
“Sex, Condoms & STDs: What We Now Know,” Austin TX 2002.
3) The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “The Cautious Generation?” April 27, 2000. Accessed at http://www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/data/pdf/cautious.pdf.
4) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2001. MMWR, 2002: 51 (SS04): 1-64.
5) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trends in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students – United States, 1991-2001, MMWR, 2002; 51 (38): 856-859.
6) Wallis C, “The Kids Are Alright,” Time, 5 July 1999, pp. 56-58.
7) The National Campaign (see #3)
8) Wallis, “The Kids Are Alright” (see #6)
[“Reaching The Millennial Generation: Enhancing Communication With Up-and-Coming Teens”, The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 2003, www.medinstitute.org]