Yesterday on The PediaBlog, we learned that even though the teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined over the last 20 years, the U.S. still leads all developed nations in that statistic. In fact, according to Talk: The New Sex Ed:
The USA has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, unintended pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted infections among all 1st world nations.
Here’s another uncomfortable statistic:
The average age of 1st exposure to internet porn is 11 years old.
The largest group of internet porn users is children age 12-17.
And, then, there’s this:
By 12th grade, 15% of teens have had sex with 4 or more partners.
The CDC explains the social and economic costs — both immediate and long term — on society, teen parents, and their children:
- In 2010, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for at least $9.4 billion in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.
- Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school drop out rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.
- The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.
The CDC offers 11 “protective factors on the basis of knowledge, skills, beliefs, or attitudes related to teen pregnancy” that can help reduce the number of teen pregnancies:
1. Knowledge of sexual issues, HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy (including methods of prevention).
2. Perception of HIV risk.
3. Personal values about sex and abstinence.
4. Attitudes toward condoms (pro and con).
5. Perception of peer norms and sexual behavior.
6. Individual ability to refuse sex and to use condoms.
7. Intent to abstain from sex or limit number of partners.
8. Communication with parents or other adults about sex, condoms, and contraception.
9. Individual ability to avoid HIV/STD risk and risk behaviors.
10. Avoidance of places and situations that might lead to sex.
11. Intent to use a condom.
If parents are looking for ways to initiate “The Talk” with their preteen or teen, these 11 factors may be a good place to start. And “The Talk” needs to be started and directed by parents, because:
Who do you think most influences your child’s decisions about sex?
If you’re like most parents, you probably think it’s their friends or the media.
But as it turns out, teens consistently say that parents most influence their decisions about sex.
You heard us right – it’s you! We know sometimes it might not feel like it, but it is nevertheless the case.
In fact, in a recent study conducted by The National Campaign to End Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy, 87% of teens said it would be easier to postpone sexual activity and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations with their parents.
This is a huge, too often missed, opportunity.
Young teenagers (and even tweens) need information. Having evidence-based knowledge is empowering and will help them make healthy decisions; having no information or bad information (from friends, from media) often leads to poor decisions.
A productive dialogue about sex can be awkward and uncomfortable — much more so for the parent than the child! It’s easier for parents not to talk about sex, but it’s dangerous for children if the discussion is avoided. Talk to kids when they are young — before they “know it all.” If a parent tries to initiate a conversation about sex with an older teenager, friends and media have already found an influential space between their ears and they are more likely to roll their eyes and discount parents’ views. (Still, discussions about sex need to continue as teenagers move through adolescence. We embarrass our teenagers on a regular basis; why not one more subject to attract their ridicule!)
Talk early and talk often. Be truthful. No matter how uncomfortable this may make parents feel, this isn’t about us. It’s about our children, and we need to get over it.
Previous PediaBlog on this topic here.