Teen sexual education is something no one wants to talk about.
Most parents understand the importance of sexual education in schools, but they don’t play an active role.
The truth is: sexual education in public schools isn’t great. In fact, many schools teach abstinence-only.
As a parent, you don’t want your teen having sex. But you don’t want them getting pregnant or catching an STD either.
It’s important to ensure your teen is receiving comprehensive sexual education from somewhere. The trick is finding out how to execute this without wading into uncomfortable territory.
What Does Sex Education in Public Schools Cover?
Although learning about healthy relationships and behavior is extremely important, sex education in public schools significantly falls short.
This is due to several factors. Many parents believe sexual education should come from parents when the teen reaches adulthood. Other schools may simply lack the budget for teaching comprehensive sexual education.
Each state has their own legislation for regulating or requiring different types of sexual education in public schools.
- Less than half of states (24 and the District of Columbia) require public schools to teach sex ed.
- Of those 24 states, only 21 teach about HIV.
- Only 20 states require sexual education to be medically and factually accurate.
- 23% of sexual education in public schools teaches abstinence-only – up 2% from 1988.
- Teens are less likely to learn about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and contraception than they were in the 1980s.
- In 38 states, parents are allowed to play an active role in school sex ed programs.
Budget is a driving force behind these numbers. Since 1996, the United States government has devoted most of their public school sexual education budget to funding abstinence-only programs.
How to Ensure Your Teenager Receives Comprehensive Sex Education
Now that you know sexual education in public school isn’t great, you need to figure out how to get your teen the comprehensive sexual education they need.
Unfortunately, that responsibility now falls on you. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and many parents might feel compelled to just ignore the topic entirely.
Remember that your teen might not be sexually active – there’s no need to freak just yet.
However, your teen will be an adult one day. Young adults just learning how to make it in the world shouldn’t have to deal with unintended pregnancies, STDs, and manipulative partners.
Luckily, there are many resources available for teaching comprehensive sexual education to teens.
- A program called Answer by Rutgers University provides webinars, workshops, and magazines.
- There’s No Place Like Home offers educational resources for parents to talk with kids and teens based on age group. The younger options explain how parents can teach young children about which types of behavior are inappropriate and build an open dialogue.
- Teaching Sexual Health provides a comprehensive parent portal that covers everything from relationship abuse to STDs.
- Planned Parenthood has a list of seemingly endless resources for parents including books, websites, sex education videos, and more.
It’s important for teens to also learn about healthy and unhealthy relationship behavior.
They need to understand that things like excessive texts, gaslighting, and manipulating qualify as abuse. Teens should also understand the concept of consent: how to say no and how to ask.
Teens are growing and they make mistakes.
If you see your teen subjected to abuse, let them know that this behavior is wrong and they don’t deserve to be treated that way. If you see your teen engaging in abusive behavior, talk to them about it – don’t write it off as typical teenage behavior.
Beyond the Old-school Sex Education Videos: Importance of Sex Education in Schools
The importance of sex education in schools should not be understated: it’s crucial for avoiding teen pregnancy, STDs, and abuse.
At the same time, some parents might believe sexual education in public schools should be completely nonexistent and should come from other sources.
Although their concerns are entirely justified, the numbers demonstrate that the benefits of comprehensive sexual education far outweigh the risks.
Whether analyzing different countries abroad or states within the U.S., sexual education reduces teen pregnancy and STDS.
No one wants their teen to have sex.
However, the median age people start having sex ranges between 16 and 17. According to a 2011 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of teens reported having sex. 15% said they’ve had sex with four or more partners.
These numbers aren’t to freak you out. Just remember that while your teen may not be having sex now, they will be an adult one day on their own. You want them to make healthy choices.