It seems like every time I flip open a magazine or turn on a talk show, someone’s talking about teens and sex – how much they’re doing it, how risky the sex they’re having is, how teen pregnancy is the latest fad. Of course, it’s not the first time the media has grabbed hold of an idea and run with it. And let’s face it, the idea that today’s teens are increasingly promiscuous is one that’s going to get a lot of attention, especially from parents who get completely freaked out by the subject.
I can understand this reaction, if there was was any truth behind the headlines. But studies show it’s not necessarily the case. A recent article in The New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope (“The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity”) points out that “while some people are clearly engaging in risky sexual behavior, a vast majority are not. The reality is that in many ways, today’s teenagers are more conservative about sex than previous generations.” In fact, according to the article:
- In 2007, fewer than half of all high school students (47.8%) had had sex, while in 1991, 54.1% had
- In 2002, only 30% of high school girls had experienced sex, while in 1995, 38% had
While it’s true that in 2007 births among 15-19 year olds had risen for the first time in more than ten years (National Center for Health Statistics), that certainly doesn’t constitute a “trend.” And many researchers believe the recent increase in teen pregnancy isn’t because more teens are having sex, but because fewer are using contraception.
What do you think? Is there any truth behind the hype or is this just another chance for the media to use fear to grab an audience?
Whether teens are having more or less sex, the one thing I know is that education is the most important piece of this equation. Luckily, there are a ton of resources out there to help teens become informed and learn about the real consequences of their choices, whatever they may be. Check out the website hosted by Rutger’s University, Sex, Etc. to get honest answers from experts and teens, and tap into a ton of resources.