There’s nothing simple about teaching kids about sex. In these times of precocious pre-teens, pregnancy among teenagers, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), children and adolescents need much more than a one-time chat about the birds and the bees. Pregnancy prevention and safe sex really should be ongoing, age-appropriate topics.
Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information. Research has shown time and time again that abstinence-only education doesn’t work.The research has shown it time and time again: Abstinence-only education doesn’t affect the rates at which teenagers decide to have sex.Given that the primary purpose of abstinence-only education is to do exactly that, it is clear that it doesn’t work.One of the biggest problems with abstinence-only education is that it denies teenagers the chance to learn about acceptable options other than abstinence. Given that no form of sex education has been shown to effectively convince teenagers not to have sex, this is a significant problem.
Presumably, parents and educators want adolescents to be as healthy and happy as possible. One would hope that would be true even if those adolescents aren’t managing to conform to the standards of behavior that adults would consider ideal.Part of staying healthy is seeking appropriate health care. As boys age, many of them stop going for preventative health care.8 This limits the opportunities they have to be screened for, among other things, STDs.One of the biggest risk factors for not seeking care is holding traditional views about masculinity.9 It’s important that young men learn early that taking care of their health is one of the most “manly” things they can do.Comprehensive sex education doesn’t encourage kids to have sex. Just like abstinence-only programs, good comprehensive programs teach students that abstinence is the only surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STDs
The difference is that these programs also give students realistic and factual information about the safety of various sexual practices, and how to improve the odds.
Nothing about comprehensive sex education prevents parents from teaching their kids their standards for moral behavior.11 If anything, having them learn the facts at school frees parents to focus on explaining their own personal religious beliefs and behavioral expectations.
The more kids know, the more likely they are to say “No.” Teenagers aren’t stupid. When a teacher tells them that only abstinence can protect them from the dangers of STDs and pregnancy, they know they’re being lied to. At the very least, they know they’re being misled.
Giving adolescents an accurate picture of the risks of different types of sexual behavior can help them make informed decisions about
The most effective sex education programs tend to be the ones that try to steer teens away from specific activities that are particularly high risk.
What do teenagers do when they haven’t been given accurate information about sexual risks? They have oral sex, or even anal sex, instead of vaginal intercourse.12 In particular, many teenagers don’t see oral sex as incompatible with abstinence. That’s true even though oral sex can transmit several STDs.
Abstinence-only education sometimes encourages students to abstain from sex without ever telling them what sex is. In contrast, when comprehensive sex education is taught in schools, it may encourage teens to make more informed decisions before participating in alternative sexual behaviors.
Without enough information, those are behaviors that teens may falsely assume are safe.