If you’re 11 years old in Philadelphia, you can get free contraceptives. And if you’re too shy to pick them up in person, you can have them mailed to you for free simply by filling out an online form.
The website making the free offer is called ‘Teens Take Control’ and was created by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
It also offers detailed information on how to put on a condom as well as graphic It also gives information about sexually transmitted diseases and how kids can protect themselves.
The website is written in straightforward language geared to kids.
Here is a sample of the offer taken from the website:
“If you live in Philadelphia and are between the ages of 11 and 19 you can now have condoms mailed directly to you for FREE. Maybe it’s difficult for you to stop by one of our sites to pick up condoms. Or maybe you’re just shy or feeling weird about picking up condoms. We understand this. That’s why Philadelphia Department of Public Health is starting a new program: sending male condoms through the mail! If you live in Philadelphia and you are between the ages of 11 and 19, all you have to do is fill out the form below and we’ll put together a package for you.”
The above sample was taken from a tab on the website called, “Mail Me Condoms!” But before you object, consider that in Philadelphia, the incidences of preteen and teen sexually activity is sky high, and the problem extends far beyond teen pregnancy. There are middle schoolers contracting HIV at alarming rates before they even reach their teen years.
Jill Foster, director of the Dorothy Mann Centre for Pediatric and Adolescent HIV says:
We follow 200 teenagers with HIV, and the youngest is 12. When we started doing HIV treatment in 1998, the average age of patients was 16 or 17. The first time we got a 13-year-old was mind-blowing. But people have no idea how tough it is to be a kid who’s exposed to sexual media images and peer pressure. It’s routine for 12- and 13-year-olds to talk about sex. Younger kids hear them and they want to be part of that ‘older’ world. They don’t have maturity or impulse control, so if we can get them to have condoms with them when they start having sex, they are going to be safer. I wish it weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, it is.
The website Takecontrolphilly.org is angering many parents who feel that the site is not only too graphic but encourages children to become sexually active. On the site, children can view videos that guide them through the process of putting on male and female condoms with a number of suggested poses.
One video shows various poses for a girl: one with her leg on a chair, another showing how the condom may be inserted lying down. A video for male condom use displays a cartoon penis carrying a condom. It then puts it over its head and then makes a thrusting action. At the end of the video, the narrator says, “Take a bow you deserve it.” The website also uses a cartoon character named Zelda, who ‘was born and raised in Philly and knows how important it is to make smart choices and take control of your own life.’
Is the Philadelphia Department of Public Health encouraging sexual activity in children too young by mailing out free condoms? Or are they addressing a vital health concern? Do you think the video is too graphic for eleven-year-olds? Will you speak to your children about condom use at age 11?