It’s vital that teens understand the importance of practicing safe sex and know exactly what the risks are.
Sex will always be a topic of conversation in most high schools, with students passing on myths they believe to be true, such as not being able to get pregnant during your period… yes, there are still people who think it’s impossible, and some of them are teenagers who haven't had great sex education classes.
What’s even more interesting is that a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescence, which looked at 450 African-American students aged 12-14, found that students who were taught about condom use were less likely to have unprotected sex. Meanwhile, those who were taught at school to abstain from sex altogether were more likely to not use condoms as a contraceptive.
Some could argue that teaching teenagers to abstain might be the best way to totally avoid unwanted outcomes like STIs and teen pregnancies. However, the study authors note that this form of education leads to a more negative attitude towards condoms, while those taught about sexual health and the advantages of condoms are more likely to view them positively and use them.
A 2011 study on abstinence-only education pointed out that amongst developed countries, the US has the highest rates of STIs and teenage pregnancies, and abstinence-only education has done nothing to tackle this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, 229,715 babies were born to American women aged between 15 and 19.
The research also highlights the fact that many people are concerned that if teenagers are taught more about sexual health, they will be more likely to engage in sexual activity, hence why the US government has backed abstinence-only programs.
Decent sex education classes are essential and shouldn’t be taboo. As figures for teenage pregnancies show, teens need to be taught how to have sex safely, rather than to stay away from it altogether. With porn being so easily accessible, teenagers may form their own misconceptions about sex and what is safe, causing more harm than good.
The question is, would better sex education classes really encourage teenagers to explore their sexuality more? Maybe. However, at least they’d be doing it safely, lowering their risks of unplanned pregnancies and STIs.