The interactive episodes on TeenTruth–divided into guys, girls, parents, and citizens–feature actors talking about teen issues, pausing every so often to ask the viewer a multiple-choice question.
For example, ladies: Would you say no to a cute guy who wanted to have sex with you?
One character gets dumped by her boyfriend for refusing to have sex: “If you love somebody, they’ll give you respect,” she says.
But her friend can’t wait to find a cute boy. They start to dish their secrets, like whether they would ever text a naked picture of themselves to someone, and worry together about the consequences “sexting” can have on their reputation and applying for colleges and jobs.
In the guy section, three boys gossip about a friend who contracted an STD, a cousin who got a girl pregnant, and a little brother who pops pills.
“The goal of the Teen Truth initiative is to provide teens with information to help them make the right choices when facing critical decisions,” said Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, State Surgeon General.
More public service announcements are coming to teens in the form of interactive videos and games.
This week, a University of Central Florida team received a grant to create a computer game to help middle-school Latinas say “no” to sex. The game will use life-size avatars and put the player in real-life scenarios, like having to explain why she isn’t having sex with her boyfriend.
With the $435,000 grant, the team recruited focus groups of middle school girls to play through scenarios.
“Our researchers role play, and the girls often laugh as they give us feedback,” said Anne Norris, a UCF nursing professor developing the game with a computer science professor. “They might tell us, ‘We’d never say that!’”
Low-income Latinas not only have higher teen pregnancy rates, but higher rates of sexually transmitted disease than their white peers. They are less likely to have role models to show them how to say no, said Norris. The computer game is intended for play at after-school and outreach programs, and if it’s successful, Norris wants to create games for girls of other ethnicities and boys.