SEXTING- Teens, technology, and SEX

April 19, 2009

We are in the age of technology, and the use of technology does not exclude sex. It is very important to educate your children about sex and technology. Facebook and My Space are two of the most popular blog sites, and are growing more are more popular among our youth. For the most part these sites are simply a way to social network, but it is important to note that sometimes there are more to these sites than just fun and games. It is important to monitor what you kids are putting on these sites, as well as whom they are communicating with. Sexual predators hangout on these sites and your kids need to be aware of this. According to USA Today, “MySpace says about 90,000 sex offenders have been identified and removed from its huge social networking website.” (USA TODAY).

Not only are social networking sites a place of concern, but cell phones are now being used as tools of sex. Text messaging is becoming more and more popular, as well as more advanced. We are able to send pictures and videos via text messages. This is a great technology but it is also one that can be dangerous. Teens engage in what we have come to call sexting. It is the term used to define sending sexual content to someone via text message. This includes both nude and semi-nude photos along with sexually explicit language. According to a survey conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, almost 40% of teens send sexually explicit messages, and 20% of teens send nude or semi-nude photos of themselves via texting. With more of these teens being girls.

It is important to remind your teens of the actuality of the situation. They need to know that doing this is not a joke, and it can have some pretty serious consequences. The website (http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech ) gives us a list:

FIVE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE PRESSING SEND

1. 1. Don’t assume anything you send will remain private.

-People send these messages with the intention of the having it only be read by the receiver, however this is not true.

2. 2. There is no changing your mind in cyberspace. Anything you send or post will never truly go away.

-Even after something is deleted, it still has the potential to be uncovered. Parents, coaches, teachers, future employers, colleges, all have to potential to uncover these. And more importantly, even if a picture is deleted, there is no telling if someone copied it and released it elsewhere.

3. 3. Don’t give into the pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyber spae.

-A lot of teens “sext” because they feel pressured to do so.

4. 4.Consider the recpiant’s reaction.

-Teen girls often send these messages as a joke, but the boys who receive them do not see them as a joke, and many expect the girls to hook up with them in real life.

5. 5. Nothing is truly anonymous.

-Nearly 1/5 of teens who send sexually explicit messages online do so to someone they only know online. But it is important to remember, if someone wants to find out who you are badly enough, they will.

While this is pretty scary to think about, the question is how do I stop my teen from engaging in this activity. And no the answer is not to take away all the technology from them. You need to communicate your concerns about this with your kids, and you need to share the dangers with them. They need to be aware of them. I have borrowed some tips from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

5 TIPS TO HELP PARENTS TALK TO THEIR

KIDS ABOUT SEX AND TECHNOLOGY

1.Talk to your kids about what they are doing in cyberspace.

-Just as you need to talk openly and honestly with

your kids about real life sex and relationships,

you also want to discuss online

and cell phone activity. Make sure your kids fully understand

that messages or pictures they send over the Internet

or their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous.

Also make sure they know that others might forward their

pictures or messages to people they do not know or want

to see them, and that school administrators and employers

often look at online profiles to make judgments about potential

students/employees. It’s essential that your kids grasp

the potential short-term and long-term consequences of

their actions.

2.Know who your kids are communicating with.

Of course it’s a given that you want to know who your children

are spending time with when they leave the house. Also

do your best to learn who your kids are spending time with

online and on the phone. Supervising and monitoring your

kids’ whereabouts in real life and in cyberspace doesn’t make

you a nag; it’s just part of your job as a parent. Many young

people consider someone a “friend” even if they’ve only met

online. What about your kids?

3.Consider limitations on electronic communication.

-The days of having to talk on the phone in the kitchen in

front of the whole family are long gone, but you can still limit

the time your kids spend online and on the phone. Consider,

for example, telling your teen to leave the phone on the

kitchen counter when they’re at home and to take the laptop

out of their bedroom before they go to bed, so they won’t be

tempted to log on or talk to friends at 2a.m.

4.Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly.

-Check out your teen’s MySpace, Facebook and other public

online profiles from time to time. This isn’t snooping—this is

information your kids are making public. If everyone else can

look at it, why can’t you? Talk with them specifically about

their own notions of what is public and what is private. Your

views may differ but you won’t know until you ask, listen, and

discuss.

5.Set expectations.

-Make sure you are clear with your teen about what you consider

appropriate “electronic” behavior. Just as certain clothing

is probably off-limits or certain language unacceptable

in your house, make sure you let your kids know what is and

is not allowed online either. And give reminders of those expectations

from time to time. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust

your kids, it just reinforces that you care about them enough

to be paying attention.

Like we always stress, the more you talk to you kids, the more you will be able to talk about. They will feel more comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns they have.

REFRENECES:

MySpace: 90,000 sex offenders removed from site – USATODAY.com

Sex and Text: Results from a survey of teens and young adults. http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech


Child Sexual Abuse

April 6, 2009

Although sexual abuse among children is an unpleasant subject matter to think about – especially when it involves your son or daughter – it is an extremely important topic to speak about with your child. Knowing the statistics about child sexual abuse, as well as ways to avoid it, could ultimately save your child’s life.

Defining child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse includes “a wide range of sexual behaviors that take place between a child and an older person.” These behaviors are performed to sexually arouse the older person, generally without consideration for the child’s reactions or effects on the child’s mental, physical, or health state. Sexually abusive behaviors involve body contact such as “sexual kissing, touching, fondling of genitals, and oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse.” Other behaviors such as “genital exposure, verbal pressure for sex, and pornographic sexual exploitation,” are considered forms of non-contact sexual abuse.

Today, researchers estimate that in our country about 10% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused. In fact, in 1994 kids were more volatile to being sexually abused than being involved in a car crash or drowning (Fin- kelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994). These are alarmingly large statistics for a crime that is detrimental to the present and future health of children.

Other than catching and prosecuting sexual predators how can parents combat this crime?

Decreasing you child’s risk of being sexually abused is as simple as talking to them about child sexual abuse. In fact, studies show that parents directly talking to their children about sexual abuse is the best measure to reduce the risk because it increases the child’s risk perception. (Risk perception is the belief of the likelihood this crime will affect them.) A 1994 study by Dziuba-Leatherman and Finkelhor found that exposure to prevention programs was related to lower perceptions of the risk of sexual abuse, while information from parents was related to higher perceptions for 10- to 16- year-old boys (Dziuba-Leatherman and Finkelhor, 1994). These statistics prove the importance of talking to your child about sexual abuse.

Topics to cover when speaking to your child about sexual abuse (adapted from New York State’s Office of Children & Family Services)

  • Tell your child that they are in charge of their special body. If they don’t want to be touched or if they are touched in a way that doesn’t feel good/right, then they should scream “NO!” and run and tell someone they trust.
  • Teach them a list of adults whom they can trust. Include clergy, police, teachers, school nurse, another relative, etc.
  • Tell them that if someone bothers or hurts them then you want them to tell you. Promise that you will believe them.
  • Tell them that if someone bothers or hurts them, it is not their fault.

Tips for talking to your child about sexual abuse (adapted from New York State’s Office of Children & Family Services)

  • Start early: It’s easier to talk to child about sexual abuse if you begin at a young age, as early as three. If you start simple and talk about your child’s body as being private often and from an early age, then it will be more comfortable to talk to them about sexual abuse and similar topics as they get older.
  • Choose a time and setting that is comfortable and relaxed: Don’t make a huge deal out of the issue, and don’t try to frighten your child. If you talk to your child about sexual abuse issues in comfortable, relaxed settings (such as during a walk or when you are tucking them in at night) they will be much more likely to be perceptive to the topic.
  • Talk Often: The more you talk about sexual abuse, the more likely your child is at fully understanding the issue. It also causes the child to be more comfortable about speaking about the topic.
  • Play the “What If” game: Go through a set of scenarios and ask your child what they would do in those situations. Prompt them if they need help with the answer. Example: “What if you got a yucky feeling when someone gave you a hug or touched you in some way?” The answer would be to shout “NO!” and tell them you didn’t like it. Then, find a trusting adult to tell.

References

Child sexual abuse fact sheet. (2008). National Center for PTSD. Retrieved April 2, 2009 from: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_child_sexual_abuse.html.

Dziuba-Leatherman, J., & Finkelhor, D. (1994). How does receiving information about sexual abuse influence boys’ perceptions of their risk? Child Abuse & Neglect, 18, 557-568.

Say no! Protecting children against sexual abuse. (2005). New York State Office of Children & Family Services. Retrieved April 5, 2008 from: http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/publications /Pub1154text.asp.


Different types of sex

March 22, 2009

Not only is it important for parents to talk to their children about sex, parents may feel it is important to discuss different kinds of sex with their children. This could be for many reasons. For example, a parent may wish his or her child abstain from sex, but knows the child is sexually active in some way. Discussing other types of sex with their child gives the child knowledge about alternatives to having vaginal intercourse. Another reason it may be important to discuss different kinds of sex with a child could be because the child is gay or lesbian. Vaginal sex is not even an option for them. One of the most important reasons to discuss this is to educate your children on how to be safe when having other kinds of sex. “Oral sex is becoming more accepted among children. Generally, children do not think of oral sex as ‘sex.’ They think of oral sex as a safe way to enjoy some of the benefits of vaginal sex with less risk…also, some children don’t understand that it is possible to get a sexually transmitted disease or HIV from having oral sex.” It is very possible to contract a sexually transmitted disease or HIV form having oral as well as anal sex. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss contraceptives that pertain to oral and anal sex, as well as manual stimulation.

There are forms of contraceptives that are made specifically for oral sex, and manual stimulation. A latex condom can be used when having anal sex, as well as when engaging is fellatio. Fellatio is oral sex, when performed on a man. A concern of your child could be that condoms do not taste good, so therefore they do not want to use one. Your response to that could be that there are condoms that are flavored. They are available at any drug store and most health centers have them as well. Dental dams are another contraceptive and are made for vaginal oral sex. These are a bit harder to come by, but can still be found at any drug store. Also, cutting a condom in half long ways works just as well as a dental dam. When performing manual stimulation on a man, a condom can still be worn, and there are finger condoms for performing manual stimulation on a woman.

Discussing different types of sex is something that should probably be put on the back burner until your child is an adolescent. The child needs to be mature enough before you discuss different kinds of sex with him or her. Most often these different kinds of sex are experienced within a loving relationship. “Adolescents are able to talk about lovemaking and sex in terms of dating and relationships. They may need help dealing with the intensity of their own sexual feelings, confusion regarding their sexual identity, and

sexual behavior in a relationship.”

The subject of sex in general is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with your child, but the more open you are about it, the easier it will be. Also, if you do take our advice and start talking about sex with your children early, it will allow for a more open environment later on, when they do reach adolescence. Taking the time to discuss sex with your kids is quite beneficial, and actual can reduce sexual behaviors. “Studies show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex… because their moms and dads speak openly and listen carefully to them… are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject.” It is important to be open-minded while talking to your kids about safe sex. Also it is important to you’re your child real answers, mature answers. If your kids are mature enough to be asking a question, they are mature enough to hear an educated answer.

References:

Explaining Sex to Your Child. (2008). Epigee Women’s Health. Retrieved February 4, 2009, from http://www.epigee.org/talking-about-sex-with-kids.html.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. (2008, January). WebMD Health and Parenting. Retrieved February 5, 2009,                from http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20080116/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-sex.

Kirby, D. (2007). Abstinence, sex, and STD/HIV education programs for teens: Their impact on sexual behavior, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Annual Review of Sex Research, 18, 143- 177.

Somers, C. l. and Eaves, M.W. (2002). Is earlier sex education harmful? An analysis of the timing of school-based sex education and adolescent      sexual behaviors. Research in Education, 67(1), 23-33. Retrieved from Sociological Collection database.

Talking with Kids about Sex and Relationships. (2008). Talking with Kids. Retrieved February 4, 2009, from http://www.talkingwithkids.org/sex.html.


Abstienence and Safe Sex (Comprehensive) Education

February 22, 2009

Aside from the decision of when to start talking to your child about sex, parents are faced with the question of what to teach. From self-help books to religious influences, the media, and one’s moral beliefs all of these are influential factors that weigh in on when and how parents educate their children, and there are so many gradations of information to choose from. Many educational programs fall into the categories of Abstinence or Safe Sex; this post will outline the goals and effectiveness of Abstinence and Safe Sex programs.

The goal of Abstinence programs is to teach adolescents to wait until they are physically and emotionally ready before having sex. Many programs encourage no-sex-until-marriage, while others do not. Some programs discuss the effectiveness of protection without encouraging their use, while others strongly oppose condoms and contraceptives to the point of down-playing their effectiveness or ignoring their existence altogether. Many critics of abstinence-only target the teachings as “outdated” and “radically religious,” but while some programs are “overtly religious” most are secular (Kirby, 2007). Supports believe abstinence programs can achieve significant reductions sexual initiation and some research has affirmed these beliefs (Weed, 2008).

While the main goal of abstinence is to promote waiting, Safe Sex or Comprehensive approaches aim to educate adolescents on how to protect themselves from pregnancy and infections. This is accomplished while explaining the best way to prevent pregnancy, infections, and potential emotional upset is to abstain. Like abstinence programs, safe sex approaches are diverse as well. Many of the gradations arise with children’s ages, but other differences arise with different degrees of emphasis on education and the availability of contraceptives and how to use them. Critics accuse these programs of promoting adolescent sex and giving kids an excuse to have sex. Interestingly, proponents of safe sex programs can also support abstinence teaching by educating children about what to do if they have sex while still encouraging them to wait.

Promoting both abstinence and safe sex are compatible goals: Amy Schwarz argued that “We should absolutely be teaching young people about abstinence, but we shouldn’t be holding back information that can save lives and prevent pregnancy” (as cited in Schwarz, 2007, p. 155).  Programs that emphasize abstinence but encourage protection in the incident of sex do not increase sexual behavior but delay sex, reduce frequency and number of partners, and/or increase use of condoms or contraceptives (Kirby, 2007). And while some may worry that the combination of these two approaches is too much information, research suggest that “earlier learning about various sexuality topics was generally not related to earlier initiation of sexual intercourse,” for both boys and girls (Sommers & Eaves, 2002).

In summary, “. . . no single, simple approach will dramatically reduce adolescent pregnancy and STD across the country” (Kirby, 2007). Unfortunately, many studies conflict supporting their bias, there is no “quick answer” for parents on how to educate their children. Instead, parents must choose from this mass of information what is best for their child and their desired teaching style; however, there is some guidance: the most effective program is “A very intensive, comprehensive, and long-term program. . .” A program like this has the most dramatic results, reducing reported pregnancy IN HALF for three years! (Kirby, 2007).  All in all, there are pros and cons to each side and each family must weigh the impacts in order to find the best fit.

Remember: there is no easy route. If children ask give them an answer instead of avoiding their inquiries. If you answer you can be more confident that the education your child is receiving is the information you want them to know. Some helpful websites for safe sex and abstinence education are listed below.


References

Forrest, S. (2009, Feb. 20). Abstinence, sex education, and HIV protection. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from AVERT Web site: http://www.avert.org/abstinence.htm

Kirby, D. (2007). Abstinence, sex, and STD/HIV education programs for teens: Their impact on sexual behavior, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. Annual Review of Sex Research, 18, 143- 177.

Schwarz, A. (2007). Comprehensive sex education: Why America’s youth deserve the truth about sex. Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy, 29 (1) , 115-160.

Somers, C. L., & Eaves, M. W. (2002). Is earlier sex education harmful? An analysis of the timing of school-based sex education and adolescent sexual behaviours. Research in Education, 67, p23-33.

Talking to your preteen about waiting. (2008, Aug. 7). 4 Parents Home. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from 4parents.gov Web site: http://www.4parents.gov

Weed, S. E., Ericksen, I. H., Lewis, A., Grant, G. E., & Wibberly, K. H. (2008). An abstinence program’s impact on cognitive mediators and sexual initiation. American Journal of Health Behavior, 32 (1), p60-73.


When to Start the Conversation

February 7, 2009

It is important to recognize that your child’s cognitive development,the ability to think or form complex ideas, and their ability to understand the many aspects of sex are interrelated. Individual children reach different levels of psychological development at different ages and therefore are prepared to understand different aspects of sexual relations at different times in their lives

While the content of sexual discussion varies based on cognitive ability it is never too early to start talking to your child about sexual aspects. Generally, children began asking questions about their sex organs at ages three to five. Learning about sex should be an ongoing process, much like most life lessons are. For instance you wouldn’t try to teach you toddler how to read in one day. You start with the ABCs.  When teaching your toddler his or her body parts, such as the mouth and nose include “this is your penis” or “this is your vagina” in your talks. This builds the foundation for further discussion about these body parts and creates an ongoing “dialogue that you will continue throughout the child’s pre-teen and teenage years.Anticipate the sex information your child will need for his next stage in life and gradually add more facts to the conversation as you child grows. 

There is no magic age to educate your child about sexual intercourse, but you should definitely talk to your children about it before they learn erroneous information from friends, or become confused by their own sexual development. Studies shows that early, accurate sex information can “combat developmental limitations,” such as a teenagers’ feelings of invulnerability to pregnancy and STDs.

Dr. Lisa Masterson suggests parents educate their children about sexual intercourse between the ages of eight and ten, before they begin puberty. Dr. Masterson is co-host of ABC’s The Doctors and specialists in obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, adolescent gynecology and family planning. On a December episode of The Doctors Dr. Materson had a sex talk sleep over with ten-year-old girls to show parents how to educate their pre-teens in a relaxed atmosphere. Dr. Masterson suggests using humor with children to make the conversation less awkward, however other experts insist that sex talks should be straightforward and serious to relay the weightiness of the topic?

Click here to watch the video of Dr. Lisa Masterson talking about sex and children on The Doctors.

 The single most important thing is that you create and maintain an open, honest sex dialogue with your kids so they feel comfortable asking you questions and when they ask it is definitely time to answer them. Don’t wait until it’s too late. 

Click here for more suggestions on how and when to start the conversation.

  Talk to your kids before their curiosity gets the best of them!

naked-baby-in-a-laundry

Resources

Explaining Sex to Your Child. (2008). Epigee Women’s Health. Retrieved February 4, 2009, from http://www.epigee.org/talking-about-sex-with-kids.html.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. (2008, January). WebMD Health and Parenting. Retrieved February 5, 2009,                from http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20080116/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-sex.

Somers, C. l. and Eaves, M.W. (2002). Is earlier sex education harmful? An analysis of the timing of school-based sex education and adolescent      sexual behaviors. Research in Education, 67(1), 23-33. Retrieved from Sociological Collection database.

Talking to Your Kids about Sex.(2005, May) American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Retrieved February 4, 2009,        from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/talking_to_your_kids_about_sex

Talking with Kids about Sex and Relationships. (2008). Talking with Kids. Retrieved February 4, 2009, from http://www.talkingwithkids.org/sex.html.  

Sex Talk with Dr. Lisa. (2008, December). TV. Retrieved February 5, 2009, from http://www.tv.com/video/15023/101/75266/sex-talk-with-dr.-lisa? o=tv&category=episode_clip&tag=showspace;video;6. 

 

 

 


The Facts – Teens and Sex and Their Parents’ Impact

February 1, 2009

Images of teenage pregnancy and promiscuity are prevalent in today’s society. Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin – daughter of former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin – are just two of the numerous examples of teenage pregnancy in today’s society.

In addition, according to a March 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four – or twenty-six percent – of teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 18 has a sexually transmitted disease (STD). About half of the females surveyed in this survey admitted to having sexual intercourse. Furthermore, similar studies have revealed that by the time women have finished their first year in college, more than two-thirds will have engaged in sexual intercourse.

TEEN STDS

Chart from Washington Post online.

While these statistics may appear grim, there is hope to counteract these dismal statistics. According to a 2007 national polling survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teens said that their parents most influence their decisions about sex. Yet, parents of teens continue to underestimate the influence they have over their children’s decisions about sex, and they overestimate the power of the media and friends. Click here to see the full study.

Understanding the influence you have as a parent over your child’s behaviors, including their sexual activity, can give you the confidence you need to speak up to your kids about sex. As a parent, you should know that it is never too early to being talking to your child bout the birds and the bees. The early you begin discussing sex to your child, including healthy and safe sex practices, the more influence you will have over their behaviors. Also, the earlier you begin discussing sex, the less awkward and uncomfortable the discussions will be in the future as your child grows older.

Thus, the first step in counteracting the alarming statistics about growing sexual activity and diseases among teenagers is to realize the great influence you have over your child and the importance of speaking to them early. If you can accept talking to your children early on in their development about sex and healthy choices as a normal and essential part of parenthood, then you are already well on your way to counteracting those grim national statistics.

The following posts on this blog will discuss specific tips about how to speak to your child at different stages in their development, explore national campaigns and advertisements that encourage dialogue between parents and children about sex, and touch on other topics that will benefit parents and help to become more comfortable when discussing sex with their children.

Resources

2007 With One Voice Results. (2007, February). The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.thenationalcampaign.org.

Nationally Representative CDC Study Finds 1 in 4 Teenage Girls Has a Sexually Transmitted Disease. (2008, March 11). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.cdc.gov.

STD Data Come as No Surprise, Area Teenagers Say. (2008, March 13). The Washington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.washingtonpost.com.


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