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The Sex Lives of Our Children

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Moms, you may want to sit down for this story. I know I had to.

boy and girl smiling at eachother

Dr. Wendy Walsh: I recently had to make that uncomfortable call to a mom from a new school. You know the kind of call. I didn't even know the woman, yet I had to not only introduce myself but also inform her that her son had mentioned to some fifth grade girls, all aged 10 or 11, that "Spin the Bottle" was to be a compulsory activity at his upcoming birthday party.

Fortunately, she was cool about it, laughed her butt off, and then ordered extra lighting and extra chaperones for the shindig. My phone call was precipitated by some stats I'd run across online. Stats that I really need to share with you.

Moms, are you sitting down? Because I've got some sobering statistics from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Seriously. Sit down. And chew on this number, for starters.

32.8.

That's the percentage of ninth graders (14-year-olds!!!) who have had sexual intercourse. That's from a 2007 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Think about it. That's about four in 10. And the news gets worse. By 10th grade, that number is just shy of 50 percent. These numbers do not include children who engage in oral sex in middle school. Apparently, oral sex is not considered sex these days. Funny, I think you can still get a sexually transmitted disease from it.

And, if you're still trying to catch your breath, Mom, read this one fast. One-third of American teenage girls get pregnant before the age of 20. That's one in three, ladies.

So, what is going on here???

According to experts, there are a few factors that have contributed to these startling statistics. Let's start with our highly sexualized culture and tween fashion industry. From advertising to TV to the Internet, the messages our advertisers and entertainment executives send to children rob them of their childhood, literally.

Next, let's look at ourselves. Despite what the data shows, too many parents and school administrators still believe that teaching sex education and giving information about birth control is giving permission for sexual activity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Teaching kids about the physical, emotional, and social ramifications of early sexual activity helps them make an informed decision. Instead, too many children (yes, children) rely on playground groping and peer-to-peer misinformation, and make decisions when they only know half the story.

Here is the saddest statistic that I read today: Six out of 10 teenage girls say they wish they had waited to have sex.
I'll be pulling my head out of the sand today. And there will be some serious info being served with my lasagna tonight.

Want to join me? Check out The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.


next: Dropping the F-Bomb May Be Good for You!
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris October 7, 2009, 4:47 AM

I’m not at all surprise by the age that teenagers are starting to have sex. My first experience was at 15 and that was 25 yrs ago and without ALL the overexposure to sex that our children have now. Do I wish maybe I waited longer…sure but I don’t sit back everyday and regret it. I have talked many times to my 14 yr son not only about safe sex but the emotional involvement of having sex. I think the more informed our children are, the better decisions they make. I hope :)

Anonymous October 7, 2009, 7:09 AM

My six-year-old daughter already knows what sex is. She knows where babies come from and knows they’re a lot of work, even though they are very cute. She knows that the pills Mommy takes every day are to prevent Mommy from having another baby right now. She has run off to her teacher to tell on boys who have touched her “private parts” - alarming in and of itself, although a few were butt taps and one was during tickling. If she’s uncomfortable talking with me about things, she talks to her father or her aunt. I have already had a few parents shocked at what she already knows, but I’m hoping that she’ll be able to make good decisions when she gets older based upon the knowledge she will have held for years by then.

Wendi October 7, 2009, 10:11 AM

I have a 12yr old boy and a 14yr old girl and a 3yr old boy. I am honest with my kids, I have talked with them about sex and they know they can ask anything. I do tell them that they need to wait till they are older because they are just to young and can not handle the what comes after. They are fine with waiting and not even interested at all. I keep them active with sports and family things. They have heard a lot of teens having babies and want no part in that. I think it also helped that they have a much younger brother and see how much work he is. One of my big things with the kids is to be honest and then not to give them the oppertunity to have sex. They are not left alone with other kids so they can try things. That in itself is a huge helper to keep them away from sex.

Lindsey October 7, 2009, 12:00 PM

Wow. Thanks for all of that. Mine are too young (1 & 3), but it’s always good to keep it in mind.

tessie October 7, 2009, 12:11 PM

I wasn’t shocked by these numbers at all. In my sophmore year class we had about 360 students total. Nearly 20 of the girls, including myself got pregnant. I am now 24 and my son is 8. He initally asked: “How do babies get in the mommy’s belly?” at age 4 I made up a birds and bees type story. He accepted it and went on. However a yr later he questioned me again not believing my first story. He was very upset with me when I told him the truth. Since then I’ve answered all his curious questions honestly. He is a very smart boy and has an insight of the world I wish I had had at such age. Although he is only 8 he and I have an agreement that as long as he keeps up the good grades (nothing lower than a B) and he makes good decision, he can pretty much as he pleases. It works very well for us. He’s growing to be a smart, responsible young man. I was truly blessed

dan October 7, 2009, 1:07 PM

This article is ridiculous. Such incessant fear mongering. It’s okay for teens to have sex. It’s natural. Now, they SHOULD be having safe sex and be aware of all that sexuality means. The truth is, this article doesn’t push for safe sex. This article pushes for enforced abstinence and I am embarrassed to see that it was written by a fellow clinical psychologist.

sex education for teens October 8, 2009, 6:46 PM

Thank you for the important points that you stressed.

Anonymous November 7, 2009, 7:44 PM

first of all, who stands up while on the computer.

Second of all, you might want to sit down for this one. Get off your high horse. Society is evolving. Just how it always has. I bet you’re Mother wouldn’t have been to happy about some of the things you were doing when you were a teenager, and I’m sure she did some things that would have appalled your grandmother.

Calm yourself down, seriously.

Felix November 7, 2009, 7:44 PM

first of all, who stands up while on the computer.

Second of all, you might want to sit down for this one. Get off your high horse. Society is evolving. Just how it always has. I bet you’re Mother wouldn’t have been to happy about some of the things you were doing when you were a teenager, and I’m sure she did some things that would have appalled your grandmother.

Calm yourself down, seriously.

Athena November 8, 2009, 3:56 PM

My mom got pregnant at 16 carrying my older brother with a guy she didn’t even really get along with. Now, I am sixteen with my first serious boyfriend that I can see myself having a future with, not because of an intense hormonal response, but because I feel truly comfortable and happy with him and I don’t have to change anything about myself to have that. I think stats like these are good, but only when parents use common sense. I would never put myself through what my mom went through and if that means being abstinent, I can wait. Reports like this, however, lead my mom to believe that only thing I do with my boyfriend is have wild, crazed sex which as you can infer is rather hard on my social life.


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