Teaching children about sex can be difficult and uncomfortable, but most people feel that it's necessary and essential. A comprehensive sex education curriculum includes basic sexual anatomy, the science of reproduction, medically accurate facts about contraception, information about abstinence and a rundown of sexually transmitted diseases as well as ways to protect against them. There is ongoing debate about the advantages and disadvantages of providing sex education in schools.
Teaching children the basics of sexual activity can help prevent unprotected sex, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A 2007 article in the "American Journal of Nursing" reported that comprehensive sex education made teens 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or impregnate a partner compared to teens who didn't receive sex education. The study looked at 1,719 teens aged 15 through 19. One potential reason for this discrepancy is that comprehensive sex education teaches teens about contraception, which can increase the odds that they use it specifically to prevent pregnancy and STDs.
Teens who have a comprehensive understanding of the ramifications of sexual activity may be less likely to engage in intercourse, and sexual education courses can encourage teens to delay having sex for the first time. In fact, based on data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics in a 2012 Time Magazine article, 86 percent of girls and 88 percent of boys who did not receive sex education had sex for the first time before the age of 20. The same article notes that 77 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys who did receive sex education had sex before the age of 20. Further, 24 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls hadn't had any sex education before having sex for the first time.
Depending on what type of sex education a school uses, the programs can actually deter contraception use. For example, abstinence-only programs don't teach about birth control. Studies have shown that teens who have received only this type of education do choose to have sex, they're more likely to do so without protection. If these teens do have unprotected sex, they're also at a greater risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs.
Teaching teens about birth control is a key component of well-rounded sexual education curriculum. Birth control education raises the chances that teens will protect themselves. However, females under the age of 21 are actually more likely to get pregnant when using types of birth control like the pill and the patch, according to a 2014 article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The risk is that the sex education classes don't adequately teach teens how to use birth control properly, such as taking the pill at the same time every day, which increases its effectiveness. The key to effectiveness is the implementation of comprehensive sex education, which can reduce teen pregnancy risks.
- Public School Review: Public Schools and Sex Education
- American Journal of Nursing: Comprehensive Sex Education Reduces Teen Pregnancies
- Time Magazine: Teen Sex Ed: Instead of Promoting Promiscuity, It Delays First Sex
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexual Risk Behavior: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention
- Guttmacher Institute: Facts on American Teens’ Sources of Information About Sex
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Many Birth Control Options Available: What's Best For Your Teen?