I stood in the cul-de-sac of my neighborhood last week talking to two other moms about teen sex. One of the two ladies has a 14-year-old son who raised a few red flags indicating a need to dialogue on the subject. This need comes as no surprise to most parents of teens today.
I vividly remember when I was 14. Many girls around me became sexually active. By the time I entered high school – ninth grade – girls started dropping out to have children. So with the current cultural inundation and obsession with sex, parental intervention is needed often before puberty.
The urgent need for education is driven home by a recently released report on the spread of STDs among young Americans. According to the report, an estimated 50 percent of sexually active youth (age 15-24) will contract an STD by the age of 25.
This is serious stuff. STDs include syphilis, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, trichomoniasis and HIV/AIDS. The names alone drip with yuck. Symptoms range from swelling, burning, discharge, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sores and death. What’s worse, symptoms are often recurring and lifelong – except, of course, death.
In response to the epidemic level of STD transmission, April has been designated National STD Awareness month. But how many of you knew that?
Public awareness surrounding the effects and problems associated with STDs is embarrassingly low. So low that according to the American Social Health Association, there are more than 18 million new cases of STDs every year. That means at least one in four Americans will contract an STD in their lifetime.
Compounding the problem, according to ASHA, “many young people assume they’re being tested for STDs during regular health visits when, in fact, such testing is not routine.” That means many STD cases go undetected because some of the symptoms are mild. For example, chlamydia left untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and sterility.
Naturally, teens should be educated on the dangers of contracting STDs and how to protect themselves. Abstinence comes immediately to mind. And while generic and mild suggestions of abstinence may not work, a heaping dose of reality complete with pictures and testimonials might.
It’s time we get honest with kids about the dangers of sex and stop pushing sex like candy. STDs can cause heart and brain damage, cancer, infertility, liver problems, blindness, deafness and birth defects! And condoms do NOT protect against the transmission of all STDs.
Further evidence sex education needs an overhaul is that most kids don’t think oral sex is sex at all. I guess we have another reason to thank Bill Clinton. But oral sex can transmit STDs as easily and quickly as intercourse.
In addition to overhauling sex education, a clear line of defense against the dangers of sex should be drawn in the home. Helping combat this attack on children’s health and traditional family values are moms and social commentators like Rebecca Hagelin. She has recently published a book called “Home Invasion” that I heard her discuss on “The Factor” with Bill O’Reilly.
Hagelin and her writings are refreshing and inspiring. Hagelin herself is a very successful, hip and trendy mom who has no problem drawing battle lines to protect her children against an over-sexualized society and the overall moral decay creeping into our homes.
However unpopular it may seem by society standards, Rebecca candidly talks about the safeguards she uses in raising her three teenage children. None has a computer in their room. Their computers are in plain view open to the entire family for supervised use. Only one child has a TV in her room, which is rigged for viewing parentally approved videos. There is no MTV. All of this is done, in part, to monitor and limit their exposure to sex and other morally compromising behavior. Of course, she and her children discuss sex. They are simply made to understand that it is a good thing appropriate inside the confines of a marriage.
Along that same vein, I saw Maria Shriver, first lady of California, talk about similarly tight boundaries for her kids. It appears she and her husband, the Governator, are rather old-school as well. Despite the ever-trendy lifestyle of the rich and famous, their kids are monitored very closely. Their activities are well-supervised with chores, curfews and phone checks to the homes and parents of their childrens’ friends.
So returning to my neighbors, I will share the STD statistics and the “guerrilla tactics” of Hagelin and Shriver. My hope is to see stricter parenting become a trend as a frontline defense against today’s all-consuming culture of sexual promiscuity and general corruption. I think it is possible with the bold-parenting style and leadership of moms like Hagelin and Shriver leading the way.
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