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October 15, 2020 - Take the Time to Get to Know Me: Modern Day Methods for Engaging and Retaining Youth (AIDS 2020)

­At the AIDS 2020 (virtual) Conference, Daniel Rodriguez and Ron Smalls, members of the ATN Executive Committee, presented an on-demand session, "Take the Time to Get to Know Me: Modern Day Methods for Engaging and Retaining Youth." You can watch the full on-demand video from the session, and see a text transcript below the video. Press play below. 

View the full list of presentations and contributions from the the ATN at AIDS 2020 here. 


Text Transcript:

Video transcript begins:

[Daniel Rodriguez] Hello everyone.  My name is Daniel Rodriguez. Today’s presentation is “Take the time to get to know me: Modern day methods for engaging and retaining youth.” Next slide. Next slide.

[Ronkevious “Ron” Smalls] Hello everyone, my name is Ronkevious Smalls, also known as “Ron.” I am a South Florida native currently living in Massachusetts. I became a part of ATN back in 2017. I’m happy to share my experience and to share this presentation with you on how to retain and engage with youth in the field of research as well as a whole.

[Daniel Rodriguez] So today I will be starting off with engagement and retention of youth through social media. Next slide. In current youth social media interactions are made through portable devices, primarily cell phones. Youth as well as other ages have developed communities within social media apps that they follow closely every day. Within these communities, youth are able to interact with each other through media that they commonly enjoy. Media can include content created uniquely by the leader of the following, or content that relates to current events that younger people can relate to. Content created forms an audience that resonates with it. This is how communities with unique characteristics are made. Some becoming more popular than others. Usually these communities on social media will have few people that dominate the platform that they are in. For example, some may have a page that is just specifically gay content that other gay individuals can relate to. Furthermore, shared content shared by these gay content creators may only be relatable to other gay people. All groups of people do this, and throughout the years, these communities have become identities for not only youth but social media users in general. As we continue with the presentation, I will go into some of the social media platforms that are currently popular in the young adult demographic. Next slide.

First we have Twitter, a popular blogging site that people can share news on, as well as personal opinions and media content. Twitter has grown to see the evolution of various groups that many young people can identify with. For example, fans of K pop, quote and unquote “Korean pop,” follow pages that share videos of their favorite groups and solo artists. They interact with each other through blogging and often interacting with other communities as well. Always making it clear that they are K pop stans. They make it clear they are K pop stans by the media they share and the profile pics they use which are similar in concept. Groups like these are very close knit, and oftentimes friendships can be made in real life through finding out that another is in the same community. Researchers can reach out to popular pages often run by a single person to provide resources for sexual health aimed towards a younger audience. Youth can be encouraged by the page leaders to engage amongst themselves and follow through with studies and other activities planned by researchers. Retention of youth will always be there as long as they feel like they can do it together while keeping their identities. For example, gay individuals can blog about their good experiences in clinics which can encourage youth to do the same. Page leaders could also make it clear that they can answer questions that youth may have in obtaining sexual health information. Next slide.

Next we have YouTube, probably the most famous platform of social media currently in use. YouTube offers a variety of content to people who enjoy different things. Youth tend to follow pages of people that align with their own development of beliefs. Followers will interact with others in the comments talking about the videos posted and how they may relate to it. This form of interaction has created huge communities where people will often interact with each other talking about the same video they watched. Researchers can contact content creators that have a large youth audience in an effort to get them to support whatever research they may need. Videos can start off with a very short survey that people can take, helping researchers find which pages have these large younger audiences. Also, when people are creating videos it can ask their audiences what they may think about certain topics. Youth can comment on what they think, or what they have been through which can encourage others to speak up. For example, content creators can ask youth what they think of sexual health information available to them, which they can respond to. Retention is higher in this situation because many people would do activities together out of the love for their content creator. Next slide.

Next we have Twitch. Another popular video app that focuses on live streaming. These live streams tend to be game play videos of whatever game the streamer chooses to play. The live streamer will play a game on their device and others will be able to watch and comment on the performance and the game in general. Many young people have been using this platform to livestream popular games creating a community that revolves around them. For example, two people may play and stream the same game but their audience will be completely different. In short, people who follow streamers, not primarily because of the game, but because of the streamers themselves. Knowing this, researchers can contact streamers whose audiences are primarily youth. Researchers can ask them to advocate for sexual health information and studies. Youth would then be much more likely to be involved and informed, simply because their most famous streamer is speaking out in retention -- speaking out on it. Retention of youth could then be achieved, through simple consistency of the streamer. The streamer remains focused on their content adding in information on youth which they can then follow through the years as they please. Finally -- next slide.

Finally, we have TikTok. TikTok which was once known as, is a social media platform that has recently grown in popularity amongst younger people. This platform shares videos of YouTube but these videos tend to be short and many times interactive. For example, a video will be made and the space on the side will allow others to create a video of themselves interacting with the first video made. Communities already made have interacted with each other in this way, creating a special environment where groups of people interact, when they formerly would not have interacted. Popular content creators also exist on this platform. It’s like YouTube, researchers can reach out to these content creators with the larger younger audience. If the content creator is willing, they themselves can be compassionate, providing their audience access to sexual health information. Youth who would like to do the same can unite with their favorite video creators engaging by making videos of their own experiences with it. Overall, communities exist with these social media platforms that contain a younger adult demographic. Sexual health information and studies can be shared with them through contacting growing content creators and their pages. Of course, some may want compensation, but many times this is a small price to pay in order to reach out to a very large audience. Many content creators care very much about their followers and vice versa. Many talk to each other every day, while others provide mental relief through the content they share. If one is able to get one of these content creators invested, then reaching out to the audience will be much easier, than finding them one-by-one. With that I finish my part of the presentation on engagement and retention of youth through social media. And we’ll be switching over to Ron shortly.

[Ronkevious “Ron” Smalls] All right, so I am going to be talking about retention, and being able to grasp the attention of youth. So, one of the things of which I’ve noticed in my career is being able to grasp the attention of youth using events. When I was working with the University of South Florida, one of the things which I did was I had themed events on a monthly basis, and they consisted of different things; where there was a pizza palooza, or a candy night, or a game night or even karaoke night;  and through those events we were able to get youth to come in to the clinic and be able to share our different services with them, while also being able to gain access to youth without having to actually go out into the community ourselves. Now, in that same effort we noticed that one of the great things about that is that having the youth to come to us, they felt more inclined to do so even when we weren’t having events. So, when we were just open in general, they would just come by and stop by. And it increased our population in our access to the youth in being able to perform more screenings and have more of that engagement with them. But then also one of the things I would like to do, is make sure that we have a mutual beneficial partnership between youth. Understanding that youth, you know, how we are being able to help them and how they’re able to help us in making sure that we understand what it is that they are looking for, and how it is that we can be of service to them. Then also using youth as a community partner. Youth, they are the stakeholders of the things in which we do, whether it is research or whether it’s community engagement, or even if it is just us trying to see what it is they want to see from us. Using youth in a community board, or using them in a way in a capacity where they are the main focus and they are being able to be in charge of what it is that they want to see and how it is we should be driving our research, or how we should be driving the efforts in which we are taking part, it is best to see youth as community stake holders and community partners rather than just as test subjects. Being able to actually see them for the human that lives inside of them and being able to bring that out, and you know, help to align ourselves with what it is that we can do to better benefit the youth population. Also meeting them where they are. So earlier, I know, I mentioned we haven’t been so that way, we don’t have to go out into community. But one of the things that I do find very awarding is being able to go out and understand “where do you hang out?” So one of the things that we saw, was that youth like to hang out at coffee shops, so sometimes they like to hang out at skate parks. So being able to know where youth are, and being able to understand how to find them makes it best for us to be able to bring in youth, and be able to engage with them, as a way to just make sure that we are reaching them. Reaching that population of -- that particular population, so being able to do all of those in conjunction, I noticed that it brought a really, really good change to the clinic that I used to work with in South Florida being able to just engage with the youth and see what it is that they want and being able to see how we can gear events towards them, being able to see how we can be beneficial as well as they be beneficial to us as well, while also learning from them as we continue to learn and lessen the curve of infections amongst youth.

(End of presentation)

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ATN is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).  Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U24HD089880. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN) research program aims to defeat the rising HIV epidemic among adolescents and young adults in the United States. ATN is led by investigators with innovative thinking and novel approaches to increase awareness of HIV status in youth and, for those diagnosed with HIV, increase access to health care. Visit to learn more.