When I see magazines, movies, or television shows that market sex to kids, I go ballistic.
Here’s why: There is a dark secret in America that is threatening our kids about which most parents and teens don’t know: Our youth are living with an unprecedented epidemic of sexually transmitted infections.
That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet if your teen reads magazines, watches television, or streams movies — he will never know this.
How bad is it? Let me give you a few solid medical facts.
- Twenty million Americans contract a new sexually transmitted infection (STI) each year, according to the CDC. While the teen/young adult population comprises only 30 percent of the population, this group has 50 percent of all infections.
- One in five people over age 12 tests positive for genital herpes, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
- Forty percent of girls age 14 to 18 experience unwanted sex. Why? They don't want to say no and hurt their boyfriends' feelings.
- One in four teens — all teens, not just sexually active teens — lives with an STI today.
- About 12 strains of human papillomavirus cause cancers in people. We now immunize children as young as 11 years old against nine of them.
On top of this, kids who are sexually active are at higher risk for depression — and most teens believe oral sex is safe because they can't get pregnant or get STIs.
Heard enough? This is just the beginning of the data that doctors know about teens and sex.
Parents need to know all of this. Why? Because teen magazines, sitcoms, movies, and music are delivering a colossal lie to your kids.
Today's media and culture are persuading kids that all types of sex are cool, safe, and even a child's "right" — no matter the age of the child. But don't be fooled. Our kids are a pawn used by many to accomplish one major goal and belief: that sexual freedom is healthy, good, and a right for all Americans, including kids.
What they aren't willing to tell you is this: Viruses and bacteria don't care about rights, and they are winning.
Marketers manipulate your kids' minds about sexual activity and sexuality. Don't let them. Know your medical facts and teach them to your kids. Afraid of this? Don't be. Kids understand there's trouble out there, and they appreciate it when adults tell them the indisputable truth.
I have spoken to literally thousands of kids in the U.S about why they should hold off having any type of sex. I shoot straight, tell them the truth, and tell them how fabulous sex is when they're married and aren't infected with illnesses. And you know what? They listen. They inundate me with questions. (go to page 2 to continue reading)
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Here's how you as a parent or caregiver can successfully do the same.
1.) Talk to your kids about sex. Take a deep breath and begin. Getting started is the hardest part, but it gets easier. Say something like, "I know it's tough being a teen these days and I want you to know I'm on your side. Kids are having sex and many don't know how serious an issue it is. Can we chat about it?" Then tell your teens the facts. If you need more, I wrote "Your Kids at Risk," and I have plenty more information and advice in there.
2.) Be positive when you talk about sex. Most kids think parents don't want them to have sex because it's wrong or dirty. Tell them it's so good that you need to help protect them. Don't shame them.
3.) Give them the longer perspective. Tell your kids they may have 50+ years of sex ahead of them (rather stunning when put that way, isn't it?). Tell them you want to make sure the bulk of those years are great for them. That's why you need to help them put the brakes on in high school and college. They love it when they hear this.
4.) Talk to them about their feelings. Kids love it when you show them respect and tell them that sex deeply affects their feelings. They know this — but the culture treats sex like mindless recreation. When you tell them having sex will deeply affect their moods and relationships and make breaking up harder in the future, they'll listen.
5.) Tell them that you, not their friends, have the right answers. Let your kids know they will hear all sorts of things about sex: that they can remain a virgin by having certain types of sex, that these activities are safe, that having sex is no big deal. You know better, so tell them the truth.
I know this is hard, but your kids are being talked to about sex everywhere they turn. So you need to join and lead the conversations so that they know the truth and that you're on their side.
Our kids are living in a toxic culture. I promise these talks and information will save them a lot of heartache. It may save their lives, too.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the new book, "Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need"  (Regnery Publishing, May 2017), as well as a number of digital parenting resources  and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.