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Skills for Educators

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Advocating for Changing Social Norms Associated with Condoms and Condom Use

Welcome to Skills for Educators!

This Educator Skill is designed to help educators create activities for students that advocate for changes in social norms around condoms. After an introduction, you will find sections that offer skill building around advocating for social change. A list of references can be found at the end.


Introduction

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, condoms were never discussed on television. Now, due to extensive advocacy from the AIDS community, condom references and commercials are now a regular part of American television.1 However, in the United States, condom use is still not seen as a normal and acceptable part of American sexuality. Nor is consistent condom use a norm among adolescents — even though adolescents are generally well informed about the risks associated with unprotected intercourse.2

Teaching students to advocate for issues related to condoms can begin to make changes that will help to make condom use a norm. This column will provide the educator with skills to help students use their knowledge of safe sex to advocate for changes in social norms that may increase their likelihood to consistently and correctly use condoms. It is divided into the following sections:


Helping Students Become Advocates for Social Change

Note for the Educator:

Definitions of Advocacy and Social Norms
In order to help your students advocate for changes in social norms related to condoms, it is important to first define advocacy and social norms.

  • An advocate is someone who acts for change. Example: Martin Luther King, Jr. was an advocate for civil rights.

  • Social norms are unwritten rules to which society adheres. Example: Dr. King used the media and non-violent resistance to change social norms about the civil rights of people of color.

Procedure:

  1. Elicit definitions and examples of advocacy from students. Encourage them to give examples of advocacy that other students can relate to, such as changes that students have made in the classroom. Next, talk with students about school-wide advocacy and then community advocacy. Ask students if they have ever acted as advocates. If so, how did they feel as advocates?

  2. Elicit definitions and examples of social norms from students. Ask the students to identify classroom norms. Take a few responses. Next, ask students to identify societal norms related to condoms, and record their ideas on flipchart paper or the blackboard. The following questions may help facilitate discussion:

    • Where are condoms available?

    • Are condoms accessible to adolescents?

    • Is it normal for youth and parents to talk about condoms and condom use?

    • What are school, district and state norms about talking to youth about condoms?

    • Are the school’s, district’s and state’s norms conducive to young people's needs?
  1. Once a list of norms is made, have the students identify ways that they can change them to their benefit. Record their responses on flip chart paper or the blackboard. The following questions may help facilitate discussion:

    • What would be the ideal way to make condoms accessible to youth?

    • What would be the ideal parent-child communication about condom use?

    • What would be the ideal school policy related to condoms?

    • What would be the ideal district policy related to condoms?

    • What would be the ideal state policy related to adolescent accessibility and knowledge of condoms?

    • What can youth do to help achieve these ideals?
  1. After students have identified social norms about condom use and availability, use the students' ideas to develop activities to advocate for changes in the social norms. These activities may include:

    • Writing letters to the school board to change district policies about talking about condoms in the classroom and availability of condoms on campus or at the school clinic.

    • Writing letters to local drug stores that keep their condoms behind the counter explaining the importance of making condoms more accessible to customers.

One model/format for writing advocacy-based letters is:

  • State what you want to see changed.

  • State what you want the person you are writing to do.

  • State why you want the change and what the benefits of the change will be.

  • Reinforce what you want to see changed.

  • Thank the person for her/his attention.
  1. Encourage students to talk to parents about condom use. For example, "Mom, we have been talking about condoms at school. What do you think about them? My teacher says it is important for us to talk about our family values related to sexuality…" 

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Developing a Parent Consent Form that Emphasizes Parental Involvement

Note for the Educator:

Importance of Parental Involvement
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a fact sheet on the importance of parental involvement in condom use for youth. The CDC’s fact sheet can be accessed at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/facts/family.htm

Also, current research shows that frequent communication about safe sex by the mother is a positive predictor of consistent condom usage.3

Because parent involvement is important in consistent adolescent condom use, it is important for the educator to involve parents in their children's sex education. One way to accomplish this goal is to develop a parent consent form that encourages communication and emphasizes the importance of parental involvement in sex education.

Procedure:

To develop a parent consent form that promotes communication and parental involvement, include the following:

  1. Give parents suggestions for starting a conversation with their children. For example, "Your teacher sent home this form that says it is important for me to talk to you about condom use…"

  2. Encourage parents to use the consent form as a conversation starter by suggesting discussion openers such as, "So, I see that you are going to be starting a unit on sex education. What do you already know?"

  3. Include a copy of the CDC Fact Sheet with the consent form.

  4. Encourage parents to teach their children about how to use a condom by sending home a diagram of how to properly use a condom along with suggestions for discussion questions. For example, "Your teacher suggests we talk about how to use a condom. Do you know how to use a condom?"

  5. Suggest that parents give their child information about consistent condom use and provide parents with the necessary information. For example, "Studies show that when you start having sex, or if you are having sex, you should use a condom every time you have sex for the first six months of your relationship. At the end of the six months, both you and your partner should be tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) before you move onto another form of birth control."

  6. Have parents sign an affirmative consent form, one that acknowledges that in addition to the parent providing sexual education at home, the school will also be providing sex education. Ask parents to return the consent form for their child to participate in the school's sex education. Although using an affirmative consent form may require more work from the educator, it could increase parents' awareness and involvement.

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Conclusions

  • Involving students in changing their environment empowers them to act for their own health. This empowerment may help to improve relationships with their parents, partners and community.

  • Learning to advocate for themselves gives students vital skills to advocate for change in other areas of their lives.

  • Current research shows that parent involvement in adolescent sexual education plays a major role in the adolescent's willingness to negotiate and use condoms. For more information, see this month's Research Summary

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References

1 Glanz, K., Lewis, F. M., Rimer, B. K., 1990. Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory Research and Practice, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. 371.

2 Cline, R.J., Freeman, K.E., Johnson, S.J., 1990. Talk among sexual partners about AIDS: Factors differentiating those who talk from those who do not. Communication Research, 17, 792-808.

3 Troth, A., Peterson, C. C., 2000. Factors Predicting Safe-Sex Talk and Condom Use in Early Sexual Relationships. Health Communication, 12(2), 195-218.