Uncle Sam Isn't Really Your Uncle: You are the Family Member Who Has to Tell Your Kids About S-E-X
by Deneen Moore
The message is alarmingly loud and clear to adolescents: There's nothing wrong with promiscuous sex. Network television and cable programs, movies, song lyrics (along with suggestive music videos), internet research and chat rooms render graphic sexual images and dialogue 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
These media outlets are an advertising showcase illustrating the thrilling aspects of sexual activities without any regard to the consequences.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the "sex ads" are working:
- In 2005, 47 percent of high school students claimed to have had sexual intercourse, and 14 percent said they already had four or more sex partners.
- In 2005, 34 percent of currently sexually-active high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse.
- In 2002, 55 percent of men and 54 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 19 engaged in oral sex with someone of the opposite sex.
How can society hope to compete with the media's destructive messages and these troubling trends? The solution will not come from Big Government. It starts in the home, where parents must explain the real-world consequences of sexual promiscuity.
Adolescents need to know that a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a huge price to pay for a few minutes of pleasure. The CDC estimates 19 million new STD infections occur each year and almost half of them are among young people ages 15 to 24. Adolescents under the influence of drugs and alcohol increase the likelihood of unprotected sexual activities, which could lead to contracting life-threatening STDs like the HIV infection, AIDS, cervical cancer, Chlamydia and herpes.
The CDC also reports that:
- In 2004, an estimated 4,883 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 in 33 reporting states were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, representing about 13 percent of those diagnosed that year.
- The HIV infection is the sixth leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
An unintended pregnancy is another consequence of adolescent sexual activities. Having a child is not the same as raising a child. Among teens each year, the CDC reports there are over 800,000 pregnancies. Unfortunately, most of these children-raising-children are from single parent homes of a previous generation of teen pregnancy. Teenage girls who become pregnant are more than likely to drop out of school and not fulfill the educational requirements necessary for a high school diploma or GED.
Finally, a child's psychological health must be considered when it comes to any sexual behavior. Issues ranging from peer pressure to low self-esteem can play an important role in why such behavior is evident and why counseling may be necessary.
As a concluding point, let's be clear and not fall for the "Clintonism of sex" excuse. Adolescents need to know that vaginal, anal and oral sex is sex and that the best method of safe sex is no sex.
Sex education must start in the home, and parents need to play their role by setting an example and encouraging abstinence. Regular parental involvement is the central aspect of a young person's growth, development and safety. Parents shouldn't be embarrassed to discuss this issue, nor should they think their child would never do such a thing; most kids already are doing such things. Parents need to closely supervise their kids' activities, whereabouts and friends.
Adolescents must recognize they are responsible for their actions. By engaging in risky sexual activities, the consequences can be long-lasting and even life-threatening. Kids are going to find out somehow. If it's not from the parents they'll learn from someone else.
While today's culture is telling kids to say "yes" to sex, parents must explain that free sex isn't always free.
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Deneen Moore is a senior fellow of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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