Frequent Questions and Concerns about Early Sexual Activity
What can I do to prevent teen sexual activity?
Talk about your values and why you have the values that you do. Teenagers want to hear from their parents—and they do listen (even if it may not seem like it). Acknowledge teen sexuality and that your teenager has sexual feelings, but also point out that she doesn’t need to act on those feelings. Talk about which sexual activities you feel are okay for teens and which aren’t. Be explicit. What do you think of teen kissing, holding hands, snuggling, touching private parts, oral sex, and sexual intercourse?
Another step that you can take is to prevent your children from viewing adult-targeted media. In a recent study, Children’s Hospital of Boston discovered that younger children exposed to adult-themed television and movies become sexually active earlier during adolescence. By keeping a close eye on what your child is viewing on television, in movies, and on the internet, you can decrease the chance that your child will engage in early sexual activity.
What effect does early sexual activity have on teenagers?
Early sexual activity puts teens at risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and females who have sexual intercourse at a young age and have multiple partners have a higher rate of cervical cancer.1 Researchers are also studying the relationship of teen sexual activity with sexual dysfunction later in life. In addition, early sexual activity has been correlated with dependency and low self-esteem. Researchers in the field of child and adolescent development consider early sexual activity a risky behavior. Some sexually active teens lose their reputations along with their virginity, and the labels that others place on them can be painful and long-lasting.
How young are kids starting to have intercourse?
Even if your child is not yet a teen, sexual activity is an issue you should be thinking about. Seven percent of young people had sexual intercourse before age 13, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.3 Having sexual intercourse before age 13 is more likely among guys (10%) than girls (4%). It’s also more common among African-Americans (16%) and Hispanics (8%) compared to whites (4%). About 48 percent of all teenagers have had sexual intercourse, though many have had it only once. The percentage increases as kids get older.4
One of the best ways that you can lay a solid foundation for preventing early sexual activity is by instilling positive values—especially restraint—in your child. Talk about your values often, and explain to your child that abstaining from early sexual activity is one of the ways in which he can act out those values.
What do I do if my teen is seeing someone?
Emphasize that getting to know someone is much more than being sexual and moving toward sexual activity and intercourse. It’s about learning how to build a healthy relationship with someone. It’s about getting to know yourself and learning how to have a close relationship. Seeing someone should be fun—it shouldn’t be a high-pressured situation where kids feel like they need to act in certain ways, including being sexually active. Acknowledge that everyone has sexual feelings. Point out that even though it may seem that “everyone is having sex,” or that most teens engage in sexual activity, this just isn’t true. Most teenagers who have a high number of Developmental Assets are not having sexual intercourse.5 As your teenager dates, keep the lines of communication open. As relationships get closer, teens are more tempted to become sexually active.
1. John Forliti and others, Values & Choices: Human Sexuality, The Teacher’s Manual, revised edition (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1991), 119.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007,” Surveillance Summaries, June 6, 2008, MMWR 57, no. SS-4 (2008): 21.
4. Ibid., 21, 97.
5. Peter Benson and others, A Fragile Foundation: The State of Developmental Assets Among American Youth (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1999), 78.
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