Teenagers and Sex
People are sexual beings and it is natural that children might start acting on their sexual fantasies when they enter puberty. However, as a parent you might worry whether your child’s interest in sex is age-appropriate and whether they might be taken advantage of once they start forming sexual relationships. In this article, we will discuss the most common concerns you might have about your child’s sexual life and how you can keep them safe.
Is Sex Among Teenagers a Growing Issue?
According to law, a person under 16 years old is considered a child when it comes to sexual activity that involves other people, which ensures that children are protected from potential harm such as coercion and exploitation.
Unfortunately, it might also make many parents mistakenly believe that they do not have to discuss sex with their children unless they reach a certain age. While fewer than one-third of teenagers are sexually active by the time they are 16, statistics also show that half of them do not use protection the first time they have sex.  Even though many people begin to have sex at a very young age, the issue is not necessarily the sexual activity per se but the lack of knowledge of the dangers associated with sex.
Sex and the Media
While we are surrounded by sex in all shapes and forms; sex scenes in movies, suggestive commercials and sexual jokes, sex remains taboo in our society, which is why teenagers might see it as exciting. Previous studies show that the higher the sexual content consumption, the more likely it is that a young person engages in sexual activity and the less likely that they use condoms. One of the most harmful forms of sexual content is pornography, which can have a negative impact on a teenager’s brain. As the teenager’s brain is still developing and is more sensitive to dopamine production, it makes it more vulnerable to addiction.
Viewing porn results in a dopamine flood, which conditions a teenager to crave the same effect over and over again.
Another issue is that pornography tends to portray women as objects that enjoy being degraded and men as the ones whose pleasure matters the most. This might lead to a belief that a male partner’s needs are the most important and in the worst-case scenario, it teaches children not to take sexual assault seriously. In men, it can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
Sexual Coercion and Other Dangers
Sexual coercion happens if a person uses drugs, alcohol, force, or pressure to make someone engage in sexual contact against their will. Girls are particularly vulnerable to coercion; findings from research by the University of Bristol revealed that more than four in ten schoolgirls were persuaded to take part in unwanted sexual activity.  Additionally, around 22% of girls said they experienced intimidation or physical violence from their boyfriends. Alarmingly, the same study showed that around 18% of boys strongly agreed with misogynist statements, among which was a belief that it is okay to hit a woman if she is unfaithful.
Another potentially dangerous activity is sexting and exchanging explicit images in particular, which might lead to feelings of shame in girls but can be used to coerce both sexes.  While sexting might begin as a consensual activity between two teenagers interested in each other, it might later be used to blackmail one person into sending more pictures against their wishes.
How to Talk to Your Child About Sex
Many parents dread talking about sex to their children and decide to rely on schools to prepare them for their ‘sexual debut’. But instead of worrying that your child will soon become sexually active and ignoring the issue, it is important to focus on making sure that when they do, they are as safe as possible.
- Make Sure They Are Safe from Unwanted Pregnancy and STIs
Talk to your child and make sure they understand the potential health risks and know what contraception is available. Avoid telling them what they should do and ask if they know how to keep themselves safe instead. Remember to be relaxed and answer any questions they might have.
- Help Them Develop Relationship Skills
Entering a romantic relationship will not keep a teenager safe from sexual coercion and might make them even more vulnerable to it if they are not aware of know what healthy relationships look like. When you talk to your child about sex, make sure that you include relationships in the conversation.
1. Encourage them to talk about their relationship problems
Even though it is natural for you to worry if your child has begun a sexual activity, try not to let your fear prevent you from keeping an open mind. Do not express disapproval every time they go out with their partner. Instead, show your child that they can always confide in you and encourage them to open up.
2. Raise any concerns you might have
Let your child know that something is not right in their relationship if their partner does not respect them but make sure you avoid communicating your concern by saying that they should break up or that their partner is not good for them. Be specific and help your child understand that they should feel safe and loved around their partner.
3. Talk about consent and risks surrounding sexual activities
Emphasise that it is not their fault if someone takes advantage of them – this way they will learn how to be more assertive and will be more likely to reach out for help if something happens to them.
If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.
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