Recently a study was released by Paige Harden, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Virginia, that claimed teenagers or pre-teens who have consensual sex are less likely than their virgin counterparts to engage in delinquent behavior later on in life. Then, last week I read about an author who was telling parents to encourage their youngsters to engage in sexual activity. And to top it off, just the other day I read about the results of a recent Associated Press poll which showed that 67 percent of American adults favor public schools providing birth control to students. All this after the nation’s teen birth rate rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006, which was the first increase in 14 years and births to unmarried mothers hit a record high (Center For Disease Control).
What is our society coming to when we encourage are children to have sex, when we hand out condoms in classrooms, and when we claim that teenage sex is actually beneficial? Are you kidding me here? Is this a joke of some sort? Whether you have kids or not, you should have learned enough from your own experiences to know that pre-marital sex (and especially teenage sex) is not something to mess around with. From unwanted pregnancies to sexually transmitted diseases, sex can cause a world of hurt for those who are unprepared for the consequences. And 99 percent of the time, it is our children who are the ones who are unprepared to deal with the consequences of their sexual behavior. Are they ready to drop out of school and go to work to support a child? Of course not! Are they prepared to find an abortion clinic or adoption center and figure out their options? Doubtful! Are they prepared to go through nine months of pregnancy and all the strains that are brought about? Absolutely not! And are they prepared to raise a child when they themselves are not even old enough to drive or vote? The answer is as clear as day: NO.
Despite recent decreases, American rates of teen pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases are among the highest of all industrialized nations (Washington Post, 2006). This shows me that despite our quality education system, despite our efforts to provide sexual education programs, and despite the barrage of birth control options, American teenagers are having sex and paying the consequences. One study estimated that the average American loses their virginity at the age of 16. Another claimed that less than 30 percent of American teenagers graduate high school a virgin. These alarming statistics, and the sorrow that sex can bring to youngsters, leads me to believe that parents aren’t doing their job — or at least not well enough.
My parents knew my brothers, sisters, and I would be tempted by sex as teenagers so they took specific, consistent, and sometimes dramatic steps to prevent it from happening. They demanded we participate in extra curricular activities to keep us busy. They enforced a strict curfew and delivered consequences should we arrive home late. They called our friends’ parents if we asked to attend a party or sleep-over. They even barred me from having a girl in my bedroom, even to study! My parents took a hands-on approach to parenting and their demands and discipline kept my siblings and me in line.
Too often today I hear about parents who are too busy, distracted, or tired to get involved in their child’s lives. I hear about parents who work two jobs, or houses where kids have the home to themselves from the minute they get home from school until the minute they go to sleep. What do you think these kids are doing? Their homework? Of course not. These children, with time on their hands, no supervision, and little structure in their lives are getting themselves into trouble. Whether it is drinking, drugs, or sex, I promise you, it’s not good.
Parents must not only discourage their children from engaging in sexual activity, they must demand it, and, like my parents, take steps to prevent it. Kids, without this parental support will fall to temptation, follow the path of their peers, and engage in sexual behavior that could lead to pregnancy, abortion, an STD, or simply, heartache, depression, or dejection. Then it is up to our schools, churches, media, and lawmakers to support parents so that parents are not alone in keeping their children safe, healthy, and out of bed. And finally, it is up to the child themselves to head the advice of their elders, take the right path, and avoid pre-marital sex.
The reward does not outweigh the risk. The thrill of sex lasts a few minutes, hours, or days, but the consequences that could — and most likely will — arise can last a lifetime.