How do I communicate with teens? This question hounds most providers as well as parents and teachers. Thanks to excellent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and PEW Research Center, we know some of the answer lies in the latest media trends and technologies.
But what about health information? Most parents have to walk the line between gatekeeping and educating their teens about their own health and wellness. Nowhere is this juggle more apparent than in the realm of teens and vaccines.
According to CDC, teens 18 and under need Tdap, meningococcal, seasonal flu, and HPV vaccines, as well as to stay current with other childhood vaccines.
In 2008, CDC launched a pre-teen vaccine campaign, impressing on caregivers the importance of vaccinations for this age group as well. The host of recommended vaccines protect against diseases such as whooping cough, HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and others.
Reaching Our Teens
Communicating the importance of vaccinations to teens isn’t just a matter of laying out the facts. Programs like GetVaxed, PKIDs teen and young adult site, attempt to reach adolescents using colorful, short, pithy health messages with extra punch and color.
Translating health messages, pithy or not, into action is a science that interests many, especially given the evolution of information-sharing with the onset of online and mobile technologies. In a subsection of the Internet and American Life Report, Pew Research Center tracks the way teens use technology to communicate and get information.
As teens increasingly turn to texting as their preferred method of communication, parents and health providers would be wise to consider ways to text out health and prevention messages.
According to Pew, using texts to educate teens about STD prevention can be effective, though no data exists currently that addresses text immunization messages.
Given the importance of teen and pre-teen vaccination, it’s clear that parents and immunization educators would benefit from more outreach efforts targeting the favored language of teens (texts, Facebook, and the mobile Web).
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds concludes that in the past few years TV as a messaging medium has largely been replaced by the Internet and mobile technology.
Parents and providers are still the trusted purveyors of immunization information for teens, but we need to adapt how we share that information with them to ensure receipt.