A recent multinational study surveyed over 6,000 teenagers from 26 countries including Chile, Poland and China, on their attitudes toward sex and contraception. The study found that the number of young people having unsafe sex with a new partner increased by 111 percent in France, 39 percent in the USA and 19 percent in Britain in the last three years!
These statistics regarding the increase in unprotected sex among young people across the globe is baffling. In an age of technology such as ours, teens and young adults have access to more information than any other prior generation. So why is there a preponderance of misinformation? It all comes down to basic communication and the messages our children are receiving from various outlets. In recent years, reality television and music has sensationalized the concept of unprotected sex and teen pregnancy. What kind of message does this send to our kids? While teens may not be actively pursuing pregnancy such as in the case of the “pregnancy pact” reported in a Massachusetts high school, some might argue that the continual portrayal of teen pregnancy in the media serves nothing less than to de-sensitize or normalize the experience of being a teenaged parent.
What’s a parent to do? Statistics indicate that less than half of all parents of teens talk to their children about sex. By failing to engage your child in on-going communication about sexuality, sexual behavior and the potential consequences of unprotected sex, teens are relying on what little information they receive from school (if sexual education is even offered!), their peers or through the media.Parents, the message is clear: talk to your children!
Shannon Aldridge, a child and teen counselor at Polaris Counseling, says this, “It is important to start a dialog with your children early in order to instill core beliefs and values regarding intimacy and sexuality. Parents need to be cautious to not dominate the conversation and to offer advice in the form of a suggestion as opposed to dictating what your teen should do. The concept of sexuality is complex and one that teens are trying to make sense of, thus an overbearing communication style, will likely result with your child “checking out” out of the conversation. Make efforts to not pass judgment, maintain open dialog and encourage your teen to express their thoughts and to ask questions. Additionally, it is imperative that communication is on-going. Use dating relationships and occurrences in the media as a basis for initiating conversations with your child. By openly discussing these topics, you are reinforcing your message about sexuality and sexual behavior while also increasing the likelihood that your teen will come to you with questions or concerns.”