Teen health educators, techies and disease prevention advocates from across the country will be in San Francisco Friday and Saturday for a conference on using social media and other technology to educate teens about safe sex and disease prevention.
This is the third annual Sex::Tech Conference put on by Internet Sexuality Information Services Inc., an Oakland-based non-profit that helps use text messages, smart phone applications and even Flickr to promote sexual health and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Youth and teens are renowned early adopters of technology and social networking programs, according to Margaret Lucas, a youth marketing manager at ISIS, Inc. And research makes it quite clear that these channels are a highly effective way to reach this demographic.
“We found that it’s easier to adapt to the technology that they’re already using rather than try to drag them to a new platform,” she said.
Organizers expect about 500 people to attend this year. In addition to health-oriented attendees, Lucas said people who develop applications or manage social networks like Facebook or Twitter also benefit from the panels, discussions and other events.
“Sex::Tech was kind of inspired by the knowledge that the Internet is a great place to talk about sexual health without feeling shameful,” Lucas said.
For government agencies, clinics and other groups that work to improve public health on a limited budget, technology is “an efficient and inexpensive way to reach people,” Lucas said.
The conference includes panels on topics like reaching urban youth, driving traffic to blogs and using text messages to increase testing for STDs.
The conference also sponsors a contest each year, harnessing interactive technology for this year’s program. The Say What?!?!?! Contest invited youth 15 to 21 years old to call a digital phone line and share the craziest sex advice they ever received from an adult.
The winner is in Los Angeles creating a video version with viral video virtuosos Funny or Die, Lucas said. It will debut at the conference.
In keeping with the conference’s highly technical leanings, audio files of the winner and runner up are on the conference’s Web site, www.sextech.org.
ISIS’ Sex::Tech Conference will be held at the JW Marriott hotel, 500 Post St.