LET’S BE HONEST: by the time that most students end up in sex education classes, they’ve already heard it all (if not seen it with their own eyes). That being said, sex ed has its very important uses; it can provide a place for kids to ask questions that they’re embarrassed to ask their friends or family members, and allows a proper scientific look at what goes on — as opposed to a slang-and-trend-oriented education on the matter.
While it’s been proven that abstinence education doesn’t stop the youth from doing it, general sex ed helps cover some of the basics, arming students with condom instructions and other birth control facts so that there’s a greater chance of them making informed decisions if and when they do have sex.
Some recent research, however, has found that sex education for teens has steadily been on the decline since 2006.
The lead study author was Laura Duberstein Lindberg of The Guttmacher Institute in New York, and she had some bummer things to say:
“The declines in formal sex education we observed since 2006 are distressing, but unfortunately are part of a longer term retreat from sex education, especially instruction about birth control methods. For example, in 1995 more than four out of five teens were taught about birth control — in the most recent data this is only about half.”
To gather the information for this study, they gave anonymous surveys to 2,000 boys and 1,000 girls between 2006 to 2010 and then between 2011 to 2013. The surveys asked about different types of sexual education they might have received, both formal and informal. The reports of both genders showed a drop in overall formal sex education, and in the second wave of surveys they all reported more formal education about how to say “no” to sex, but less formal education about how to get birth control if they decided to seek it out. Hmm.
Not knowing how or where to acquire birth control is clearly an issue, and many are blaming it on budget cuts in schools. When cash gets pulled, something like sex ed is going to be slashed before other core classes. At least, that’s what they’re saying; they could probably find a way to shave off five minutes here and there from the core classes and have time for it all. Abstinence-only sex education, which claims that just saying “no” to sex is the only way to avoid pregnancy and STDS, also can’t be helping matters; 23% of all US public schools now feature abstinence-only sex education as the only option, and in 2014, 76% of US public and private high schools taught abstinence-only methods as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs.
For another thing, since HIV is no longer the rampant, fear-inducing death sentence that it used to be (though still not something you should be hoping to contract), some of the pressure has eased up. Crazy things can happen with sex, but now it’s perceived as a lot less dangerous than it is when killer viruses are on the loose.
Another disturbing trend that the surveys found was that one in five girls and more than a third of boys did not get any information about birth control from their parents. What the hell? The cover-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best technique is probably not the best way to parent a teen.
Teen pregnancy has been on the decline, and it’s true that with the internet it’s a lot easier to learn about anything. Teens are savvy. But internet access paired with a real education on sex — spearheaded by educators and supplemented by parents — could really change the landscape.