Posts Tagged ‘STDs’

Are You Talking With Your Teen About STDs?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I was flipping through the newspaper at breakfast recently and I about choked on my toast when I saw this: About 1 in every 4 or 5 young people in Los Angeles County, California (where a recent study was conducted) contracted a sexually transmitted disease in 2005. Epidemiologists at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California (who conducted the study) were even taken by surprise at the numbers, saying “this was a shock.”

Especially scary was the large number of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are associated with HIV and are considered to be among the most serious STDs, the researchers say. The reason for those numbers? Too many teens and young adults today are having unprotected sex.

One bit of good news is that human papillomavirus — which can lead to cervical cancer — is now largely preventable with a vaccine. The bad news is that we’re apparently doing a lousy job of convincing teens to use condoms if they choose to have sex.

Yep, it’s a tricky topic for parents. If you talk about safe sex and condom use with your child, are you encouraging too-early experimentation? If you skip the condom talk and go straight to “just say no,” will your child be dangerously uninformed and ill-prepared and end up with an STD, pregnant or emotionally messed up (or all three)? It’s enough to tempt any parent to avoid bringing up the subject at all. But we can’t duck this one. Too much is at stake.

So what’s the answer?

I don’t know if there is one absolutely right answer. As those in the abstinence movement remind us, condoms sometimes fail, and just
saying no to sex is the only surefire way to avoid pregnancy, STDs and heartache. But while some parents (and teens) swear by the current
“purity” movement, I’m afraid that just preaching abstinence results in too many teens having unprotected sex because “it just happened.” To
have used a condom, many have said after the fact, would have been to admit that they were actually planning to have intercourse.

Speaking of abstinence (or lack thereof), one look at You Tube or Facebook makes it pretty clear that alcohol is having a huge affect on
teen sexual behavior, too. It always has, of course, but now our kids can upload photos of themselves partying and posing suggestively, making that whole scene — including “hooking up” — even more alluring. And there’s nothing like downing a few Jello shooters at a party to lower a kid’s inhibitions and to make “just saying no” seem like a rather quaint notion.

As the parents of a child who will enter high school in September, my husband and I are looking at the teen years ahead and we’re trying to teach
our son to respect himself, to respect girls and to make good choices that will lead to a wonderful future. We want him to understand that
sex is natural, normal and wonderful — but that it can lead to devastating consequences if he jumps in too soon.

Does that preclude talking about safe sex? Not in my book.