What do teens ask on Mxit?

Since I started the Mxit program on 6 / 7 March, we now have 14476 users. I’ve received hundreds of messages asking questions and have over 250 active contacts on Mxit that I speak to every day.

Some people ask one question and then we don’t speak again, but the vast majority come back day after day with more questions about other things, or just to chat. After our initial heavy conversations, we’re now friends. The experience so far has been uplifting, heartwarming, frustrating, heartbreaking but most of all fascinating.

Our first Mxit baby was born on Monday to a young teen mom who, when we first spoke last week, was unsure and scared about labour, birth and breastfeeding. Now – she’s better informed, feeling motivated and I’m sure she will do fine.

Most of the pregnant girls I speak to fall into 2 groups: either she’s just found out, or she suspects that she’s pregnant. She needs help to figure out what to do next. Obviously time is important, especially if she’s wanting to terminate. So we need to move quickly to get her the information and get her thinking about what she wants to do. The other group is girls who are now far advanced in their pregnancies and often have not yet been to the clinic or doctor, nor told anyone, because they are too scared. These are the girls most at risk of making rash decisions when the baby is born.

Mostly, what they all want is reassurance. Someone who will just LISTEN to them. Clear up misconceptions about old wives tales re. pregnancy and babies, give them ideas of how to tell their parents, find them organisations in their area who can help them with whatever they’re dealing with, explain how abortion, adoption, birth, breastfeeding, childcare grants, maintenance & schooling while parenting works. (Along with side issues like dealing with toothache, how to know if your boyfriend is cheating, is God punishing me for getting pregnant, help with homework, dealing with judgmental communities, wondering if you’re bisexual, discussions about the death penalty and 100 other things)

Information and love. That’s what they need.

It’s frustrating and heartbreaking that they feel they have to ask someone else, instead of their parents.

I’ve come to realise that the biggest challenge facing teens today is not peer pressure, not drugs, not HIV, not pregnancy. But parents who are unapproachable. If you have people who love you, who are on your side, you can face anything.

Without that? Who among us would be able to manage alone?

The other really fascinating part is the boys I’ve been speaking to. Some are dealing with their girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy. The majority of those boys I’ve spoken to are trying hard to do the right thing. Sometimes they don’t know what the right thing is. But they’re open to my ideas, which is encouraging. Especially when it comes to relationships and girls. They listen to my (stridently feminist!) ideas and they take it in, and we’ve had some good discussions.

I’ve had a large percentage of teen boys talking to me about their feelings. They say they can’t talk to anyone else, show their sadness or their love, for fear of looking “weak”. This worries me so much. Clearly, they’re not able to be honest about who they are, what they feel. That is a time bomb waiting to go off. More needs to be done for our boys. And that doesn’t only mean giving them a physical outlet for their feelings like sport. It means allowing them to HAVE those feelings and not feel ashamed.

I’ve been asked by outsiders if I have a stance on abortion – or if I encourage girls to make a particular decision. The answer to that is a GIANT NO!
That would be wrong. Pushing your agenda or preferences under the guise of offering help is evil, in my opinion. I offer advice and information. Whatever decision a girl wants to make – I ask – are you sure? Have you thought about these other options? IF she says no, then we explore them. But in my experience, if she knows she wants an abortion, then she’s already been through that conversation in her own head.

I also make no judgments about their sexual activity. I’ve spoken to people who haven’t yet had sex, and of course the conversation with them will be different. But it’s pointless pushing abstinence on a 19 year old girl who is already sexually active.

I talk in CAPS in 3 circumstances: to non-pregnant people about safe sex. NO SEX WITHOUT CONDOMS EVER. That’s the rule.
The second one is when considering abortion: NO ILLEGAL ABORTION DOCTORS EVER, even though it often seems easier and more accessible
The third is about abusive boyfriends: IF HE HITS YOU ONCE, HE WILL DO IT AGAIN. HE HAS TO GO, yes, even though you love him and he says he loves you

I’m Mommy. I talk to them like a mom, not like a professional counsellor ticking questions off a clipboard.
By the time our conversation is over, they want to know all about me – my name, age, family, race (they’re all fascinated that i’m white) and they talk to me like we’re friends. Even encouraging me when I feel despondent.

So ja. This is life at the moment. It’s hard. But these tiny feelers of sensible advice are creeping over the whole country… this HAS to make a difference, even if it’s only to one person

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