Teenage adolescence can be a callous time for parents and guardians. With raging hormones comes voice adjustments, rebellious attitudes, and puberty. Educating teenagers about sex is a distressing conversation for most parents. Some parents briefly cover the topic with their children, while a portion of parents and guardians do not initiate any conversations regarding sex, risks, or contraceptives at all. Meanwhile, other parents view it as inappropriate for their children to be exposed to sex topics within the classroom at all.
Religious beliefs and values play a role in a minority of families regarding their opinions and views on sex education. Sex education is a topic discussed in public school board meetings so parents and teachers can collaborate on the most effective approach in educating students about sex. Sex education is administered and discussed using different methods and approaches across the country and within public school systems. Facts supported by academic research will cover the importance and benefits of sex education, different methods of teaching sex-ed, studies supporting educating the society’s adolescence on sex education, and the positive and negative outcomes of children being educated on sex.
Parents and guardians make the decision to enroll their children in public school to gain a quality education, build social skills, interact with peers, and adapt to a structured public environment. Sex education is typically administered to middle and high-school students between ages ten and sixteen. The average female experiences her first menstruation cycle around age eleven. Although less common, it has been reported some girls experienced menstruation at the early age of six. The average male hits puberty at the age of twelve, but some can experience puberty at the age of nine (Bierich, 1975).
Determining the appropriate age for a child to be educated on sex is a common stress among parents and guardians. Some parents focus on their child’s maturity level, or physical symptoms of puberty. Over the years, society has found that majority of parents agree it is essential for their children to be educated about sex. According to a study done by Kantor and Levitz, over 93% of parents agreed that sex education should be a priority topic of education being discussed in middle and high-school (Kantor, Levitz, 2017). The human body experiences several physical changes throughout our lifespan. Children do not understand how the body operates. When a child’s body is transforming into a teenager’s body it can be scary and confusing for the child. Puberty can be terrifying, especially for girls. It is human nature to seek truth and reasoning behind change. A time arrives in every child’s life when they question the making of their existence. Once their bodies start changing there is no bypassing the subject of puberty and sex.
Sex education is necessary to teach the adolescence of the society about their bodies changing and the reason they change. In addition, children and teenagers need to fully understand the risks associated with being involved in sexual activities, such as sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and unwanted pregnancies. Sex Education is a controversial topic of discussion among parents and teachers when deciphering the most effective method to educate students on the subject. It is important for both, non-sexually active and sexually active teenagers to know about their bodies and the risks they expose themselves to when getting involved sexually with another person.
Abstinence is described as “the act of refraining from something, such as not participating in sexual intercourse” (Merriam-Webster’s 2016). Abstinence promotes students to remain abstinent from sex until marriage. This is the only method that guarantees a 100% prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and pregnancy. Considering abstinence is a guaranteed method to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies, it is highly favored in a vast majority of communities around the United States. Teaching abstinence is most commonly supported by religious families whose children are enrolled in public school systems. Many religions believe it is a sin to engage in sexual activity before marriage. Although, even if it is made abundantly clear to adolescence that abstinence is the only way to fully prevent transmitted diseases, infections, and pregnancies, children and teens still succumb to curiosity, peer pressure, or rebellion and engage in sexual activity. In 1999, a study was conducted in a public-school district that advocated students to remain abstinent, and abstinent only. Additional methods of contraception were not discussed or acknowledged. The first noted concern of students was the fear of confronting an adult regarding contraception methods. The teens in this study were ashamed of having sex and did not use birth control or condoms and it resulted in higher rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases within the community (Landry, Kaeser, & Richards, 1999).
Contraception is, “deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation” (Merriam-Webster’s, 2016). Contraception methods include using birth control and condoms when engaging in sex. Teaching adolescence in public school systems may potentially upset families who do not believe in using contraception methods. Various forms of birth control can be used and some religious families do not find it appropriate for their sons and daughters to be educated and informed about them.
Although some families do not agree with teaching children contraception methods in public school systems, other families support it. Teenagers endure high hormone levels which sometimes escalates to experimenting with sex. Some parents fear if their teenager is not educated on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, infections, or unwanted pregnancies they could end up experiencing it first-hand. A study was conducted on teenagers, both males and females who use contraception methods. All of the statistics revealed positive outcomes and had low statistics in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and infections in the regional area where the study was conducted. (Landry, Darroch, Singh, & Higgins, 2003). This study supports that education of high school students about the different forms of contraception proved to be beneficial in preventing diseases, infection, and teenage pregnancy.
Another heavily discussed debate regarding public-school system’s board and parents is teaching the students about abortions. An abortion is a procedure that results in purposeful termination of a pregnancy (Merriam-Webster’s 2016). Abortions are against the beliefs of many religions much similar to using various forms of contraception. Some people support the stance that abortion is murder, and it should not be influenced in any form in public-school systems.
An additional view on abortion is it can give a person “a way out” of having a child. Careless teenagers may engage in unprotected sex knowing an abortion could resolve the situation, if it occurred. An abortion may terminate a baby in utero, but it does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases and infection.
The discussion of teaching teens about the morning after pill arises a similar debate as abortion. Abortion is costly, and the morning after pill is affordable. Teaching teenagers about the morning after pill could potentially make them think it is okay to have sex without using a condom or birth control. Although, the morning after pill could be a useful contraception method to know about if a condom were to break or birth control failed a teenager involved in sexual activity. Another contraceptive method subject to controversy related to sex education is allowing schools to have free condoms and birth control available in the nurse’s office at the school. Some parents feel this is giving the teenagers a green light to go engage in sexual activities. Other parents feel it is convenient for their child to have availability to protection from sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and prevention of unwanted teenage pregnancy.
Some parents choose to inform their kids about sex on their own. Others are uncomfortable with discussing sex to their own kids and feel it would be less awkward and more constructive for them to learn in a school environment with peers. The following two studies will show two different forms of educating youth through the public-school system.
The first study is a peer-led sex education class. The study was conducted in a public-school system in the United Kingdom. This concept mimics an “older sibling” effect on the students. The program was designed to improve the younger pupils’ skills in sexual communication and prevention. Older high school students, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, took a class teaching them how to teach younger middle and high school students between the ages eleven and fifteen about sex. This class is a credited course and applied towards their high school diploma. The older teenagers went into the classrooms of younger students, and taught them about puberty, conception, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, infections, pregnancy, abortions and the different forms of contraception methods. This study proved that more students were comfortable discussing the subject, and frequently asked the older students questions. The students engaged in more classroom conversation and activities than compared to a teacher-led sex education course. (Stephenson, Strange, & Allen, 2008). The student-led sex education course revealed to be beneficial for everyone involved. The older high school students teaching the class are able to keep up on their own sex education and practice teaching skills. It is a reminder to the older students teaching the classes of the risks and responsibilities of being sexually active, meanwhile holds them accountable to be a positive role model for the younger students.
The next study is a teaching method using modern technology. A computer-taught course on sex education is available for middle and high-school students. The idea of this approach was based on teenagers’ high interest and usage in today’s modern technology. The intent for the program was to encourage students to become more engaged in the learning material and to take the course seriously. The study concluded positive results and more positive attitudes in teenagers when discussing sex. (Roberto, Zimmerman, Carlyle, & Abner, 2007.) Having a sex education program for middle and high-schoolers can help the student relax in the comfort of their own privacy and learn about their own body and sex. Being behind a computer screen is less intimidating than being face-to-face with an adult. Chatrooms in sex education programs online allow the students to ask any questions they need answered without feeling ashamed or awkward. Although online sex education programs eliminate the awkward moments a face-to-face teaching would, it does interfere with the emotional needs of the student. Learning about sex online doesn’t provide the teen with the emotional support a physical conversation would. Caring tones and gestures are an important factor in a teacher-student relationship. Words can be perceived differently online than in person. In addition, confidentiality can easily be broken over the internet because nobody’s information is entirely secure over the web.
In conclusion, these studies support the importance of parents, teachers, and the adolescence of today’s society to learn and talk about sex. New methods to administer sex education are emerging frequently. Parents and teachers continue to seek the best teaching method to provide the society’s growing population with accurate information. Middle and high school students are society’s upcoming adult generation. Educating the upcoming generations on sex helps prevent the growing numbers of sexually transmitted diseases and infections millions of citizens suffer and die from each day. Teaching sex education prevents unwanted pregnancy and decreases the chance of abortions and neglected babies. Overall, sex education is a crucial subject for every child to be educated about. Students need to know about their own body and the physical changes it makes.