Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is starting a new peer education program in January to help teenagers learn how to talk about healthy relationships.
The training will encourage teens to combat misinformation in their social circles with “medically accurate, values-neutral information shared in an interactive format.”
In Florida, more than half of new sexually transmitted disease cases are under the age of 25. One in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a partner. Sixty-two percent of 11 – 14 year-olds say they know someone who was verbally abused by a partner.
Planned Parenthood also reports that unhealthy behaviors are forming at younger ages due to unmonitored access to the internet.
PPSWCF Senior Director of Education Nan Morgan said the program aims to reduce those numbers with training to help teens tackle tough conversations.
"We know that friends go to other friends - just like adults - that trusted person in their life,” Morgan said. ‘And so you share lots of information with them and so this is a way to really help support those young people and give them the resources they need to be healthy."
Morgan said research shows that peer programs can have statistically significant effects on young people’s attitudes, knowledge, behaviors, and health and achievement outcomes. Peer Advocates help change norms and behaviors by serving as reliable, non-judgmental resources for sexual health information in their communities.
"Having teens be a part of a peer education counsel, they're able to get that information and be that go-to person - not only within their school - but within their community, and also within their family,” Morgan said.
The Peer Education Program will train teens to:
- Increase family communication around sexual health and healthy relationships, which bridges the gap between parent and/or caregiver and child communication, as well as with siblings.
- Identify and critically analyze media that perpetuates sexual violence and gender inequality.
- Talk about consent and healthy relationships, which equips young people to address harassment, bullying and relationship violence, all of which have a significant impact on a student’s emotional and physical well-being, as well as academic success.
- Serve as a respectful resource for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Gain confidence in their communication, leadership, and public speaking skills.
The program is being funded by a $90,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.
Planned Parenthood is currently interviewing students for the program and hopes to have it up and running by January.