As a psychiatrist who has written on the topic of sex education, it is hard to understand the continued push by politicians for abstinence-only education. Multiple studies done over the last several years have shown no decrease in sexual activity amongst teens that have gone through abstinence-only education.
While we may not all agree on a person’s right to choose an abortion, we certainly can all agree that teenage pregnancy needs to be addressed and reduced. In addition, I am sure we would all agree that HIV and other STD’s need to be addressed and reduced.
Telling teens not to have sex sounds good and I think parents should do that, but given the realities (not every teen will listen; not every teen will hold firm in the heat of the moment) we also need to tell them the real risks they face if they do have sex.
How can you talk about HIV, STD’s, pregnancy, raising a baby and the consequences if you are not allowed to do any sexual education? As a nation, we can promote abstinence and teach sex education so that our teens are best equipped to deal with the consequences and risks involved with sexual activity. In my experience it is not enough to tell a teen “No”, you have to tell them “why not”. Knowledge is power and we need to make all our adolescents more powerful in this 2008 world of access to alcohol, drugs, internet use and growing up too soon with too much pressure.
We all want the best for our kids but our division about how to help them has gotten in our way. More public examples of kids having kids will not solve the issue. Parents need to take an active role in making sure their children have all the information they need. Parents also need to help their children understand the specific values of their own family, so that the children know what can be replied upon as begin the treacherous journey of growing up.