Washington, DC –Spring break is often considered a right of passage for teens. While teens feel deserving of this week’s vacation, they often forget logic and common sense and engage in risky behaviors. Research finds that kids care about their parents and their opinions. We also know some startling facts about teens and risky sexual behavior that every parent should know before their kids head off for “fun in the sun.”
Despite headlines about the sexual risks of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), Child Trends research reports startling statistics: a substantial proportion of teens are engaging in sexual intercourse, but few are using condoms consistently. The percentage of males having had sex before age 17 is 39 percent and for females it’s even higher – a reported 43 percent. Before the age of 18, 54 percent of males and 58 percent of females reported having sex, and before age 19, 65 percent of males and 70 percent of females reported having had sexual intercourse. However, more than half of males ages 15 – 19 (53 percent) and almost ¾ of female teens (73 percent) who have had sexual intercourse in the past 12 months, sometimes or never use condoms.
And spring break is a potential time for teens to have sexual relationships with new acquaintances. More males than females reported having first sex with someone they just met or go out with occasionally. 48% of males reported having first sex with someone they just met or go out with occasionally, compared with 21% of females.
Are parents talking to their teens? Child Trends’ newest research indicates that while 53 percent of parents discussed abstinence and birth control, condoms, or STDs with their daughters, only 41 percent of parents discussed these same subjects with their sons. But 25 percent of parents had no discussions on any of these topics with their daughters and 28 percent of parents had no discussions with their sons.
Jennifer Manlove, Ph. D., author of Child Trends’ research on sex and contraception stated, “Our research clearly points to the need for parents to talk with their teens. Help your teens by setting ground rules; monitor your teens’ behavior; know who they are with. And most importantly, talk to them about the risks of unprotected sex and having sex at an early age”
It’s not too late. Talk to your teens.
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About Child Trends
Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center serving those dedicated to creating better lives for children and youth.