Facebook users now can send e-condoms to their online friends compliments of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In a world of abstinence only education, where many public health departments focus on suppressing information about safe sex, I applaud NYC’s bold move to provide accurate, lifesaving information to teenagers.
While there are some flaws in the design – the condom icon is tiny, and the recipient receives no information about what an “e-condom” is until she decides to send her own – the project is a valuable educational tool. The e-condom sender receives statistics about HIV rates, prevention, and testing. And, as things in Facebook world go, recipients quickly become senders. With luck, sending e-condoms becomes the thing to do, and teens share public health information themselves, on their terms, and in their medium. That’s the brilliance of this campaign. With social networking technologies, accurate health information reaches teens, helps friends actively promote the value of the information, and allows them to educate each other.