Although parents don’t like to talk about sex with their teens, research indicates that the average age a teen has sex is 17 years old, making it an important conversation. Although in the beginning, there might not be very much sexual activity among adolescents in their early teens, sexual experiences among teens increase as they get older. For instance, only 2% of teens have had sex by age 12. However, at age 15, there are 16% of teens who have had sex. At age 16, there are 33% of teens who have had sex. At age 17, there are 48% of teens who have had sex. By age 18, there are 61% of teens who have been sexually active. And by age 19, there are 71% of teens who have been sexually active.
The good news is that research also indicates that teens are waiting longer before they have sex. However, many teens are also not staying with the same partner or staying in long-term relationships. This might put them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and other health complications. For this reason, ensuring a teen’s sexual health is important.
The first thing that parents and caregivers can do for their teens is to make sure that if they are having sex to encourage them to use protection. Having unprotected sex is incredibly risky. There is not only the chance of getting pregnant. Teens can also get a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as Chlamydia, genital warts, or HIV.
Another way that parents can ensure their teens’ sexual health is to encourage abstinence. Truly, the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs is by staying away from sexual activity altogether. Of course, teens are in an exploratory stage in life and they may not remain abstinent, even if they have agreed to do so. Another trait of adolescents is that they can be impulsive. They tend to go with their feelings when making decisions versus relying on logic or reason. For this reason, although they might say that they will remain abstinent, when presented with an opportunity, they might take it.
For this reason, be sure to talk about having protection during sex even if you’re talking about abstinence. For instance, you might discuss the possibility of engaging in sex despite at first wanting to stay abstinent. And if that’s the case, then teens should know what forms of protection there are available to them. You might discuss the various forms of sexual protection that they can use. And if you don’t know them yourself, then you might need to do some research before having a discussion with your teen. However, here are a few birth control methods your teen might consider:
- Birth control patch
- Birth control pill
- Birth control ring
- Birth control shot
- Cervical cap
- Emergency contraception
Another way to ensure your teen’s sexual health is to monitor who your adolescent is spending time with. Frequently your teen may text, talk, or in some way communicate with someone he or she is sexually interested in. Sexting, a word used to describe texting sexual messages, is an increasingly popular activity among teens. Therefore, staying aware of who your child is engaged with can help prevent sexual experiences that your child might regret later.
Furthermore, sexual addiction is also a concern for young and older teens, particularly among those who have experienced sexual abuse, whose homes tend to hide or avoid discussing sexuality, and/or who experience shame. Having to hide anything is the quintessential element of shame, which can be the beginning of a developing sexual addiction. To prevent or intervene when it’s clear that your teen is engaging in sexual behavior or close to becoming sexually active, open and honest conversations about sex between parents and teens are necessary. Ensuring your teen’s sexual health means staying actively involved in his or her life.