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In late 2014, Advocates for Youth, Answer and YTH came together in response to the longstanding lack of engaging online sexual health information for younger adolescents, ages 10 to 14 years old. Young people in this age group have access to a variety of online content, and searches for sexual health content often lead to pornography. In response to the need for age-appropriate, medically accurate, online information on puberty and sexual health, Advocates for Youth, Answer and YTH formed a partnership to understand and meet the needs of this age group.
The process began with focus groups to assess the needs of 10-to 14-year-olds. This process took about six months and confirmed this age group’s need for age-appropriate, accurate sexual health information. The focus groups not only confirmed that young people wanted and needed accurate information, but they also confirmed that this age group’s exposure to sophisticated technology and edgy media meant that the delivery of this information had to be very creative.
A project advisory board, made up of experts in adolescent health, sex education and digital media, was formed in the spring of 2015. The advisory board has been immensely helpful, giving project guidance, feedback and content review.
The focus group findings, input from the advisory board and experts in youth marketing were instrumental in the AMAZE team’s decision to create videos that will all eventually live on both AMAZE’s YouTube channel and Amaze.org. The AMAZE team is using YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat to reach 10-to 14-year-olds and Facebook to reach parents and guardians. Each short video, designed for a 10-to 14-year-old audience, focuses on a single topic, e.g. boys puberty, girls puberty, personal safety. The videos are resources that can supplement a curriculum or be viewed independently.
To create the animated videos, the AMAZE team worked with John Carlin, a leading expert in traditional and new media who formed a creative advisory board that is managed by our producer David Grandison. Five of the top design schools in the country were approached about having their best animation students or recent graduates apply to create AMAZE videos. From almost 100 applications, the first round of 15 applicants were selected to produce animations covering an assigned topic. In addition to a stipend, the animators compete for two awards totaling $35,000. These creative young animators are producing some excellent, youth-driven content that we expect to be accessed mostly through YouTube and other social media channels. Each animator has a mentor from one of the three AMAZE partner organizations who assures the material is accurate and age appropriate.
AMAZE is also working with The Moving Company, an Israel-based animation studio with a very successful team of developers. They are producing more traditional, TED-Ed style, educational animations that are fun and engaging.
Amaze.org will eventually hosts all of the videos after they are initially released on the AMAZE YouTube channel. MyAmaze is a forthcoming section of the site that will allow parents and educators to select and organize the content that is appropriate to their children or the age group with which they work. Amaze.org will also provide access to deeper resources and information for parents and educators.
For branding, marketing and PR, the Partners are working with three highly-respected organizations in addition to their own internal staff.
Do we have the right formula? We hope so. To ensure we are providing the best possible content, AMAZE is under constant review by a pretty critical audience—10-to 14-year-olds. There are two independent groups of youth providing feedback. Some of the videos that are made may not be used. We expect all of them to eventually be updated simply because our audience changes completely every four years. This is 21st century sex education for 21st century teens!