Same news, different story

A recent presentation at the American Public Health Association Conference reported the differences in sexual behavior between youth that have smart phones versus less sophisticated ones. in a nutshell, of the teens (from LA) surveyed, those with smartphones were more likely to have sex, have sex without a condom, meet others online for sex, and be sexually solicited than teens without Internet access on their phones,

Although most press coverage consisted of the same content, the headlines varied greatly. The US News and World Report simply stated Smartphones linked to sexual activity in teens: Dull, but to the point and accurate. Kudos as well to the New York Daily News (yes, you read that right — they did good here) for having a slightly more sensational headline, but still getting the facts right:

Teens with Smartphones are more likely to be solicited for sex via the internet

Less responsible headlines included

Lead researcher Eric Rice of USC School of Social Work did a great job of representing his work accurately and was lucky enough to be quoted well in the articles at least. I continue to hope for a day when teen sexuality is NOT used to grab attention by being portrayed in a scandalous, irresponsible manner. If we want them to be mature about their sexual decision making, the least us adults could do is set a good example for them.

Siri as moral "guide"

According to Apple’s website, Siri is the “intelligent personal assistant” that accompanies a person’s iPhone, that uses voice recognition to, among other things, answer questions about location resources, or basic information. For example, you can ask Siri where the closest sushi restaurant is, or how far it is to the nearest hospital.

However, there’s a critique of Siri’s limitations that has gone viral, because many are challenging the reasoning behind its faults. Apparently, Siri is not capable of offering results that will direct a person to a birth control clinic or the nearest abortion services, but it is perfectly fine addressing needs for Viagra or Pregnancy Crisis Centers (which are anti-abortion). In fact, in some instances, those who ask for an abortion clinic are directed to Pregnancy Crisis Centers, when in fact there are nearby places that provide abortion services.

It’s unclear as to whether Siri’s limitations and flat-out mistakes are purposeful or just the result of poor programming. Or, as my esteemed colleague Shelagh Johnson hypothesizes, maybe it’s a matter of terms like “birth control” or “abortion” being so absent from general discourse, that they are not readily available in Siri’s lexicon. Johnson is also asking great questions such as “is Siri gay-friendly?” and how it reacts to questions related to HIV testing (note, the link I provide for Shelagh Johnson does not go to her critique of Siri, but to a series of interviews about her work. Her inquiry into this issue has, for now, been limited to Facebook).

For now, all we know is that Siri is not too helpful for those seeking certain reproductive health services. Let’s hope this flaw is corrected with newer versions or a patch. After all, I would not be surprised if young persons will rely on Siri for the answers to very important questions that will have long-term impacts on their health.