Along with drug experimentation, it’s common for teens to want to explore their developing sexuality. In fact, in the 1980’s, most teens were having sex or had sex at least once during their high school years. However, recent research suggests that teens are having less sex, waiting until they are older, being more careful to prevent against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
During the 1980’s, the disease HIV, or AIDS, was not as well known. Although it was becoming more and more of a health danger, there was little influence on adolescents and their decision-making regarding sex at the time. Yet, today, there seems to be a 50% drop in the number of teens who are having sex. In fact, about four out of five teens use a contraceptive when they have sex for the first time. And teens who wait until they are older to have sex are more likely to use a contraceptive. Of course, this helps keep teenage girls from getting pregnant and all teens from contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Research indicates that the average age a teen has sex is 17 years old, with sexual experiences among teens increasing 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 most common form of contraceptive among teens today is the use of the condom. However, in general, 79% of girls and 84% of boys used some form of contraceptive when they had sex for the first time.
This kind of research about teen sexual activity can be encouraging for parents. In fact, this is the kind of research that parents can share with their teens when they are having a conversation about careful sexual activity. At the same time, other research suggests that some teens who are sexually active are not staying with the same partner nor staying in long-term relationships. This kind of sexual activity can put these teens at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and other health complications.
For this reason, discussing sexual health with your teen is important. In such a conversation, parents can encourage their teen to use protection if he or she is already sexually active. 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.
Parents might also discuss these matters with teachers and school counselors who can also bring up the topic of healthy sexual activity with teens. Certainly, another factor that might be contributing to fewer teens having sex could be the education teens are receiving about the health dangers of unprotected sex.
If you are a parent and you suspect that your teen is sexually active, encourage your teen to use protection. You might also get the support of a mental health provider to discuss healthy sexuality with your teen.