What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Many teens assume all their peers are sexually active. But according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, more than half of teens in high school (58 percent of girls and 57 percent of boys) are abstaining. Less than one-third of teenagers age 17 and younger are sexually active, contrary to that which media portrays.
Teens should understand it is okay not to have sex. In fact, abstinence is a great idea, especially if they want to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Of course there are all kinds of birth control methods that - when used carefully, correctly and consistently - can reduce the risk of pregnancy and decrease the risk of STIs. But not having sex is the only 100% proven method for avoiding pregnancy and STIs. Birth control can help protect one’s body, but it can’t protect one’s feelings - and feelings are a big part of what can change when you have sex with someone. That is one of the reasons that the majority of teens who have had sex say they wish they had waited longer to get to know their partner or to be sure that they were ready to have sex in the first place.
Can Media Really Tell the Truth?
From the chaotic family dynamics to the aftermath of childbirth, MTV's hit show "16 and Pregnant" has illustrated that teen parenthood is not always an easy journey. These candid glimpses inside the trials of young parents apparently are making a mark on youth across America. The series is being credited with helping to decrease teen pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. teen birthrates plunged dramatically in 2009 after a five percent increase from 2005 to 2007. A report by National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy recognizes "16 and Pregnant," specifying that 82 percent of teenagers credit the hit show in helping them understand the challenges that come with unexpected parenthood. Research closely links teen parenthood to many negative consequences for mothers, fathers, and their children. Research states that three in 10 teen girls in the U.S. will get pregnant at least once before age 20. That's about 745,000 teen pregnancies each year.
What teens should know:
- both physical and emotional in nature
- risky; you can get pregnant, catch a sexually transmitted infection, have your heart broken or your ego bruised, or feel let down and disappointed when it is over
- sensitive; the decision to become sexually active carries serious responsibility beyond what teens need to face
- not to be taken lightly or treated as recreation
- a selfish act when it is not a loving, caring expression within a committed relationship that has stood the test of time
Sex is NOT...
- a way to make somebody love you or make a commitment to you
- a test of your love for your partner
- a measure of how mature or grown up you are
- a good way to get back at your parents or assert your independence
- a leisure activity
- always fun or enjoyable, regrettably in retrospect teens wonder if it was really worth it
Remember, when you are sexually active for the wrong reasons you hurt yourself! Remaining abstinent is the highest form of self respect and respect for your partner. You are the one who has to live in your skin so only you should dictate what you do with it. It is always okay to say “no” to sex. Trust your instincts.
What parents should know:
Even though the media is targeted for coercing adolescents into sexual activities, teens say that parents most influence their decisions about sex, love, and relationships.
What teachers should know:
Teens are faced with many influences that impact their decisions regarding sexual behavior. Heart 2 Heart, a BJC School Outreach and Youth Development sexual behavior program, can help students by providing education and resources for making the best decisions regarding sexual health.
Understanding the importance of prevention education, media influences, and life management skills provides a healthy foundation for high school students participating in the Heart 2 Heart program.
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