Statistics from the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a representative survey of high school youth, indicated that 47% of adolescents in grades 9 through 12 engaged in sexual intercourse, and 6.2% did so before the age of 13.
The good news is that 53% had not had sex, which is good news for all parents. Given the high rates of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies among sexually active teens, knowing that the majority of teens are choosing not to be sexual is comforting to those of us who worry about teens and should be passed on to teens, to normalize their choice not to be sexually active.
I think parents are an underutilized source of prevention education. The literature suggests that teens who talk to their parents about sex are less likely to engage in sex and more likely to use protection if they do. The literature also supports the fact that teens want to hear from parents and the fact that parents are the best educators of their teens, because they can pass on family values, in addition to information, whereas doctors and teachers focus on facts.
Since pediatricians and parents are both important components of sexual risk prevention efforts for adolescents, it would be great if pediatricians promoted parent-child communication during annual visits. Maybe at the same time the doctors suggest parents leave the exam room for a few minutes, and they explain state laws about confidential reproductive health care, they could suggest parents talk to kids about risk behaviors.
There are many resources to help, and here are a few:
Web Sites Palo Alto Medical Foundation provides health information for parents and children.
We're Talking -- Teen Health Info. -- for children, ages 13 to 18 and their parents. The purpose is to help youth find medically accurate information about health, and to stimulate important conversations between parents and children.
We’re Talking, Too: Preteen Health Talk -- for children, ages 9 to 12 and their parents. The purpose is to help students learn about such topics as growing up, friendship, hygiene, empathy, divorce, stress, fitness, bullying and body changes, and to stimulate important conversations between parents and children.
Talking with Kids About Tough Issues is a national campaign by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation. You can find tips, resources, and facts about sex, HIV & AIDS, violence and drugs.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy seeks to improve the well-being of children, youth, and families by reducing teen pregnancy. The Campaign's goal is to reduce the teen pregnancy rate by one-third between 1996 and 2005.
Planned Parenthood is the world's largest and oldest voluntary family planning organization. Planned Parenthood is dedicated to the principles that every individual has a fundamental right to decide when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved.