Giving teens a new way to talk about sexting
Brand Strategy & Product Innovation / 6 weeks

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In a nutshell

We were tasked with solving a social media issue for teens. We read long articles about “tech neck” and the effects of social media on families… But one issue emerged that many were talking about, but no one was making an effort to solve it: sexting. We found that tons of teens are sexting while parents remain in denial, leaving teens to their own devices (literally) to navigate the complicated new landscape. We flipped the deviant narrative around sexting to prompt healthy conversations and arm teens with tools to navigate the new teen sexual exploration.

Background

While they’ve never been pretty, the steps of teen sexual exploration used to be clear cut. You remember– first base means kissing, second base means touching, and so on. But cell phones have complicated the matter. With 76% of Americans getting their first cell phone before turning 13 (Nielsen February 2017), texting has become a natural way to communicate from an early age. So when teens begin their trip around the bases, their cell phones are one of the main media for communication first intimate moments.

Problem

Parents and educators are in denial, assuming that teen sexters are the deviants – the “bad kids.” In reality, 27% of 12-17 year olds had received a sext (JAMA Pediatrics, March 2018). They preach abstinence when it comes to sexting, warning teens with legal consequences. With good intention – often referencing tales of a viral photo ruining a young girl’s life, or an appalling group text thread leaking from the locker room. But ultimately, parents are failing to engage in healthy discussions around sexting, an act on its way to being universal among teens.

Opportunity

How can we make sexting a safe and positive part of teen sexual experience? Teens are motivated by peer-to-peer social pressure, not by threats of legal consequences or shaming. We were inspired by the success of the Truth campaign to allow young people to make informed decisions by arming them with facts, and creating a countercultural movement.

Strategy

Reframe the conversation around teen and young adult sexting to prompt conversations about healthy boundaries.

Process

We approached our research with the hope of understanding three key perspective: teens, parents, and educators.

Digital ethnographies

We learned that baking a cake didn’t come to mind for everyday acts of care because boxed cake was too big (16 servings!). People said things like, “I only bake when I have an occasion.” When it came to telling a friend you cared, people bought a plant and wrote a note.

In depth interviews

Feeling of isolation

Legislative audit

Child pornography, criminalization

Educator survey

Feeling of isolation

Audit of current legislation

child pornography, criminalization

Educator survey

the approach is “foolish,” promoting useless barriers over productive conversations

Interview with adolescent psychologist

incorrectly correlated with risky behavior

 
 

Work

If cake is about saying what you really mean (and not just birthdays), it’s actually a communication tool. Which means that it shouldn’t be in the baking aisle. Or the holiday aisle. It should be in the card aisle.

Refresh “A Thin Line” by MTV

Purpose and values to personality and identity

Created a digital tool to help teens draw safe boundaries

Digital. heck yeah!

Redesigned “A Thin Line” website

We created a Betty Crocker “Say it like you mean it” installation in the card aisle, and transformed the packaging to reflect our new position. Instead of labeling cake solely by flavor, we labeled it by message - Sorry, Thanks, and I Love You.

Created a communications plan to reach young adults, parents, and educators

Planned to overcome barriers bla bla

 

Why it works

The program, campaign, and digital product work together to shift the conversation about sexting from a shameful, deviant act to a healthy, normal part of teenage sexual exploration.

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Behind the scenes

My role

Research design
Digital ethnographies
In depth interviews
Conducted Interviews
Brand building
Product content design

Team

Hannah Barr (Strategist)
Missy Thieman (Experience Designer)