JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Text messaging got off to a slow start in the U.S. in 1996, but it’s grown immensely popular with nearly 75 percent of Americans texting.
It's made an impact on law and crime, social unrest and politics.
And now the short message is taking on teenagers and their most intimate questions.
Jefferson County’s Department of Public Health Monday launched “Go Ask Tish.”
It’s a text message service in which teenagers ask anything they ever wanted to know about sex.
They text questions to nurses who text answers right back.
“When we get bored, this is what we do,” says Tiana Vialpando, 16, a junior at Wheat Ridge High School.
Teens fast fingers seemingly text nonstop.
“Usually pretty often, probably like all day,” laughs Mia Guzman, 14, about how often she texts.
It's mostly for fun.
“I am very social. So maybe around 100-plus, a day,” laughs Vialpando.
But now teens can text to find answers to questions they might be reluctant to ask.
“Seems awkward,” laughs sophomore Chris Fabrizio, “talking to your parents about sex. That’s kind of weird.”
That’s where TISH comes in. But she’s not an actual person.
"TISH stands for Texting Information about Sexual Health … It's a new service geared toward teens and young adults to ask any question about sexual health," says Kelly Conroy, Jefferson County Public Health Nurse Supervisor.
Nurse Melanie Rogers says she’s at the ready when teens text short messages about big questions.
They usually get an answer the same day.
"I think it's an exciting way to reach young people who may not have access to someone they know they can trust," she says.
But some say questions about sex is not a job for government.
"It should be the parents first, I would want my child to ask me first," says Pastor Norman Barela of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Edgewater. But he agrees if parents aren’t around, a nurse is the second best option.
Some say this service beats the alternative of relying on the Internet, asking friends, or others without factual knowledge.
"As long as they are going to a nurse. It's better they not go to a crazy aunt," laughs mom Larisa Cressman.
"My friends aren`t always accurate, so I'd have to say 50-50, in the middle," says Vialpando about her friends’ knowledge on the sensitive subject.
Kids say they like the anonymity and integrity of the service.
"It's easier to do it texting, than face-to-face," says Fabrizio.
"A lot of kids have questions about a lot of sex,” says Guzman. She says she’s lucky because she can talk to her mom about anything.
Jeffco says this service reaches teenagers on a medium with which they’re very comfortable.
And it’s important to reach them because 60 percent of teenagers nationally have had sex by the time they graduate high school.
The service is based in Jefferson County, but anyone can use it.
How it works:
-- Text the word “question” to 720-446-TISH (8474)
-- Once you receive a response from TISH, go ahead and ask your question.
-- You can usually get a response the same day, or if you sent it at night, the next day.
For more complex, detailed questions, Jeffco Public Health encourages people to make an appointment at their clinics to talk with a nurse.