Changes in Teens’ Sex Risks

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent survey, teens’ patterns of sexual behavior has changed. First, the good news. Since 1991, fewer teens have been reporting having had sex; currently, about one-third said they did so within the past three months. But the bad news is that in the last decade, the percentage of teens who have sex but don’t use a condom has gone up; 41% of sexually active teens now report not using condoms during intercourse. This is important information for parents.

No matter your wishes about when your kids first have sex, it makes sense to discuss with them how vital it is for them to use condoms when they do. While many parents wait for the first obvious dating experience, in my experience that may be too late. Start these talks well before they are needed, such as at puberty or the beginning of middle school. The risks of not only pregnancy but also prevalent sexually transmitted infections make this topic far too vital to delay or ignore.

Educating kids about safe sex should take place in the context of talking about the social and emotional factors involved, as well. The most effective parental approach is probably expressing your values clearly, but making yourself available even if your teens make different choices. Also, making condoms available to teens does not, in my opinion, promote or even condone their sexual activity, but rather sensibly encourages them to avoid far worse alternatives.

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