Did you know that abstinence-only sex ed programs don’t work? Joanna Schroeder on a better way to help teens live healthier, happier lives.
A battle is being fought by politicians over our kids’ health, and most of us have no idea it’s even happening. Since the 1980s, our government has been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into abstinence-only sex-ed programs, which have come at a cost to our children.
It’s time we offered every child in the U.S. comprehensive sex-education, including factual information on anatomy, sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy prevention, and the use of contraception and condoms, before they become sexually active. Ideally, we’d teach them about consent and bodily autonomy from an early age, too. But only 22 states and the District of Columbia currently require students to have sex-ed. That’s less than half of our nation’s students receiving necessary information to keep themselves and others safe.
Despite teen pregnancy rates falling, teens in America are more than twice as likely to give birth than those in Canada, and almost four times more likely than teens in Germany or Norway. Even teens in Russia are less likely to give birth than American teens! While poverty and other social issues are the primary causes, federally-subsidized comprehensive sex-ed in every school can help solve the problem, as well as our issues with teens and STIs.
Here are eight reasons parents should demand better sex-ed in schools:
1. Comprehensive sex education reduces the rates of teen pregnancy.
In a study looking into the sexual risk-taking of teens ages 15 to 19, students who were were given comprehensive sex-ed are 50 percent less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than those who are given abstinence-only sex-ed. States where abstinence-only programs are taught have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.
Why is the government funding a failing program?
2. Abstinence-only programs may be putting our kids in danger.
Not only do abstinence-only programs fail to reduce the number of teens having sex, they’ve also even been proven to deter kids who are sexually active from using protection, like condoms.
Even more shocking, 50 percent of people will have contracted an STI before the age of 24. Do we really think it’s a good idea to continue programs that deter teens from using protection?
3. Comprehensive sex-ed helps delay the age of first sex.
Some people say that teaching kids about contraception encourages them to have sex, but that’s patently false. The Guttmacher Institute explains, “Respondents who had received instruction on both abstinence and birth control were older at first sex than their peers who had received no formal instruction and were more likely to have used condoms or other contraceptives at first sex; they also had healthier partnerships.”
Pushing back the age at which people first have sex means less teens having sex, and less negative health outcomes like pregnancy and STIs.
4. Parents tend to be terrible at teaching kids how to use contraception and need help from trained professionals.
It’s super important for parents to talk to their kids about how to use condoms and other forms of contraception. But parents often don’t have all the correct information and instructions, and therefore aren’t able to give their kids the skills they need in order to stay healthy.
That shouldn’t stop parents from talking about healthy sexuality and contraception, but it’s a reminder that kids should have trained professionals giving them the most up-to-date and effective information on how to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
5. Values about sex can be taught at home, but facts should be taught at school.
As parents, we have the duty and right to pass our values about sex onto our kids. If part of your family’s values system is waiting until marriage for sex, that’s fine. But schools should be teaching programs that prepare all kids to have healthy and happy lives, and give them facts that will help keep them safe.
Your kids can learn about safer sex and contraception and still choose to practice abstinence with your guidance from home.
6. There are great programs that emphasize abstinence and prepare students with information about contraception and preventing STIs.
Programs that combine abstinence-until-marriage information with recommendations for condom and contraceptive use are shown to positively impact teens’ sexual health and behavior by pushing back the age at which they first have sex, as well as reducing pregnancy and STI rates.
It’s really the best of both worlds.
7. Very few people will actually wait until they’re married to have sex … even conservative Christians.
As much as we want to believe that the traditional value of reserving sex for marriage can be effectively passed on to future generations, studies show that 95 percent of people do not wait until they’re married to have sex. Even among Evangelical Christians, one of the most conservative groups in the United States, more people are having sex outside of marriage than not. A full 80 percent of Evangelicals report having non-married sex and churches are starting to catch on by encouraging safer sex.
I know we want to believe that our kids are special, but are you really willing to risk the health of 95 percent of our nation’s young people in order to try to hang on to a personal value that only applies to the very, very few?
8. Even kids who wait to have sex can benefit from comprehensive sex-ed programs.
Most kids will have sex eventually and will use some form of birth control even in marriage. A comprehensive sex-ed curricula can help them when the time is right, too!
If consent education is included, all kids can benefit from the empowering message of bodily autonomy and respect for others.
What’s more, teens tend to rely upon one another as sources of information about sex and contraception. While this is not an ideal way for kids to get their facts, the more correct information circulating among teens about contraception and safer sex, the healthier a community can become.
Most of us hope our kids will wait until they’re older to have sex, but it’s time we faced reality and offered our kids a healthier sexual education.
Originally appeared at Babble
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