Is My Teen Having Sex?

If there is one issue parents feel uncomfortable facing when it comes to their young adolescent children, it is sexual activity. Few parents want to confront the issues of sexual promiscuity or inappropriate sexual behavior in their children, yet avoiding such behavioral problems can be as risky as the behaviors themselves. Not only does sexual promiscuity cause serious health risks to your child, it can damage self-esteem and the emotional health of a developing adolescent.


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 36.9 percent of 14-year-olds have had sex - more than one out of three. Among 12th graders, 66.4 percent have had sex.

A teen who is out of control may use sex the same way a teen might use alcohol. They might believe it will improve popularity and make them part of the "in crowd." If "everyone else is doing it" they might ignore the consequences that can come with sexual promiscuity.

The greatest risks to teens who are sexually active are unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and damage to self-esteem. When sex is treated like just another teen social activity, it can create serious emotional issues for a young person.

Sex Education

Most parents remember sex education when they were teens as a class with a poorly made film that discussed the basics of reproduction. Some students giggled in the class; some acted as if they already knew all there is to know about sex. These courses rarely did more than scratch the surface of the issues that arise when a person becomes sexually active.

As most parents know, we do not live in the same world when it comes to sexual activity. The era of HIV and AIDS has changed our attitudes toward sex. However, parents need to consider this issue from an adolescent perspective. Most adolescents have an attitude of personal invulnerability; this is a touchstone of the teen years, and leads to many of the high-risk behaviors we associate with this age group. Teens do not believe "it will happen to me." They can't imagine that would be at risk of developing a life-threatening illness by fooling around with their peers.

Pre-empting Peers

Parents will best educate their children about sex if they pre-empt the child's peers in teaching about it. If kids learn it from their peers first, they tend to find this information more reliable. If they have received serious, thoughtful information from their parents, they are better equipped to deal with myths and misinformation about sexual activity. Being well-informed gives teens the information they need to make better choices; they cannot be manipulated by the "false advertising" of their peers who want to convince them there are no consequences or issues related to sexual activity.

Signs That a Teen is Sexually Active

Parents might notice their teen is more secretive about activities with boyfriends, suddenly becomes interested in washing their own clothes, and/or has items related to sexual activity such as condoms or other forms of birth control. Some signs are more obvious than others. If your teen develops a sexually transmitted disease, medical confidentiality laws might mean you will not be informed about the cause of the health problem. Certain health signs can indicate sexual activity, such as recurring bladder infections, pain in the lower abdomen that is treated with antibiotics, and recurring yeast infections (if a teen is being treated without your knowledge with antibiotics, yeast infections are often a consequence of this treatment). Parents should not assume the cause and accuse the child, but discuss the possible factors and seek to inform and teach their child that sexual behavior can lead to serious consequences, especially in children who are too young to take on the responsibility of being sexually active.

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