Many parents today are reluctant to talk to their teens about sex. Whether the deterrent is embarrassment, denial or moral opposition, some families prefer to take a “head in the sand” approach to sex ed and simply hope their teens will learn the facts of life on their own.
For years, school has been a major source for information about sex, with lessons on the basics of human reproduction starting in fifth grade for most students. However, this education isn’t always comprehensive. A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control shows that parents are trying to communicate about sex to their teens, too. More than two out of three male teens and four out of five female teens had talked to their parents about at least one of six sex education topics. But female teens were more likely than males to talk to their parents about “how to say no to sex” ― nearly two-thirds of females had had that conversation, compared to about two out of five males. Males, meanwhile, were more likely than females to talk to their parents about how to use a condom ― 38 percent versus 29 percent.
However, parents must create a consistent and ongoing dialogue about sex to be heard over the noise of pop culture. Music videos, movies, reality shows, online porn and even advertising are all rife with sex ― and according to commonsensemedia.org, teens report that their main source of information about sex, dating and sexual health comes from what they see and hear in the media.
On average, music videos contain 93 sexual situations per hour, including 11 hard-core scenes depicting behavior like intercourse and oral sex. Programs with sexual content average 4.4 scenes per hour. And studies show the more sexual content kids watch and listen to, the earlier they’re likely to have sex themselves.
Understandably, the picture provided by pop culture is far from complete. In 2005, out of 68 percent of TV shows that showed sexual content, only 15 percent discussed risk and responsibility. And “fringe media,” including pornography, also provides exposure to graphic sexual content with little context or education to accompany it. This is especially troubling, since the biggest users of online pornography are 12- to 17-year-old boys.
The facts are clear: If parents don’t share their values and expectations about sex, the main input teens get is from the media. And that world makes dressing sexy, talking about sex and casual hook-ups seem like the norm.
Talking to your teen about sex shouldn’t just be one major conversation, but a pattern of open discussion that begins before puberty, and continues through young adulthood. As parents, it’s important to share our values and views about relationships, as well as the mechanics of sexual development and critical health information about sex, disease prevention and avoiding pregnancy.
Other concerns ― from immodest clothing choices, to over-sexualized TV and music geared toward teens ― also must be clearly addressed with teens ― preferably before they become an issue. Creating a family culture of sharing these concerns, and encouraging open dialogue about even the most uncomfortable topics is the best way to make sure you know how your teen is feeling ― and she understands your expectations for her behavior.
To protect your teen, parents must discuss sex well before it actually becomes an issue. Create an environment of openness with your daughter ― encourage her to come to you with questions and concerns, no matter what the topic. Perhaps more importantly, though, talk to your teen about self-respect. Remind her of the importance of modesty and upholding her values ― even when her developing feelings of sexuality and the confusing emotions of adolescence provide distractions.
To learn more about how to talk to your teen about sex, contact Compass Rose Academy today.