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Should we be teaching abstinence, safety, or both?
Most sex education in schools and from parents is very limited, and typically centers on abstinence. Is that enough, or is there more that we should be teaching our teens?
It seems that the sex education system in the United States is seriously lacking in most schools. It’s even worse in most homes, as parents often avoid the topic at all costs. But don’t our teens have the right to know about their bodies, and about the ups and downs of becoming sexually active?
I know that there are some schools that have amazing sex-ed programs. I have read about schools that teach about the risks of teen pregnancy, proper use of prophylactics, and some even have the electronic baby dolls that teach kids what it’s really like to have an infant. While those are wonderful, unfortunately they’re few and far between.
Most sexual education programs give gory examples of STDs, exceedingly basic anatomy lessons and push abstinence as the only option. Abstinence may be the best option to avoid pregnancy and disease, however, most teens are going to listen to their hormones, and will be having sex well before they graduate. In my opinion, parents and sex-ed teachers alike need to be teaching a lot more.
Telling teens about diseases is a wise idea, but one might want to stress the long-term effects, such as sterility and impotence, that can be caused by some of them. They should also be made aware of the diseases that have no cure, since many teens feel anything they catch can be easily cured, and is no big deal. I think all schools should have the baby dolls as well. While it won’t get the point across to all teens, it’s been proven that pregnancy rates go down in schools where these dolls have been used. Even if the dolls had to be loaned from one school to another due to costs, it would be well worth it in the long run.
Parents also need to be willing to talk openly with kids about sex. Simply telling them “don’t do it” is never going to work. They need to all the reasons why they shouldn’t do it. It’s also important to educate teens about condoms and other birth control so if they do have sex, at least they can do it safely. Extolling the virtues of masturbation as an alternative to risky sexual behavior could also do a great deal of good.
Considering the rates at which teens are becoming pregnant and diseases are spreading, it’s obvious that there’s something seriously wrong. Teaching teens to be responsible about sex is not going to encourage them to go out and have intercourse; it’s going to make them safer and smarter when they decide the time is right for them.