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Plain Talk – 6.15.10

Plain Talk – 6.15.10

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 1:27 pm
By: Nicolle Crist, Guest Columnist

Teens are having sex.
This isn’t much of a surprise. I went to a Catholic high school, so our “talk” in sophomore year was pretty uncomfortable if you can picture it with a nun in a habit. I’m just poking fun.
It was uncomfortable for lots of awkward kids in classrooms across the country. I’m grateful that we even had “the talk” even if it was too late for some of the girls in my class.
That was quite a few years ago, so I don’t think it’s surprising to anyone that teenagers are having sex. But a lot has changed since the late 1980s.
It turns out that sexual activity among teenagers steadily declined since 1988. The National Survey of Family Growth studies trends in the size and make-up of families.
The Center for Disease Control funds and manages the study for a variety of reasons, planning for future health and social service needs is one of the most important but the information is also shared with private industry, the medical community and other governmental agencies for further research.
It’s a good program. It helps us plan for our future. It’s what goes away when you hear “spending cuts.”
Last week the media was a buzz about the survey’s latest report. The conclusion? Nothing’s changed for the past two years.
From 1988 until 2002, the number of teens having sex steadily decreased by 9 percent but between 2006 and 2008 the number remains fairly constant at 42 percent of teenage girls.
Researchers are still working with the data and it will take time to get a clear picture of the effects of the last 20 years of sex education policy but a few of the statistics do tell an alarming story. I grew up in the “Safe Sex” MTV era when Salt N’ Pepa were rapping about protection.
Everyone was talking about safe sex.
Kids are using birth control, but it is sporadic and only focussed on preventing pregnancy, not disease. Condoms and the pill are the most popular forms of birth control, but both are inconsistent.
Since 2000, the number of girls depending on the unsafe rhythm method increased significantly. The most frightening statistic is that teenage girls are diagnosed with Chlamydia and/or Gonorrhea more than any other age group.
What about the kids who aren’t having sex? They slowly gained the majority but have remained steady at 58 percent. 
Of the abstainers, 41 percent said their decision is based on their religion or morals.  Only 18 percent of girls said that they abstain because they don’t want to get pregnant and shockingly the number of teenage boys worried about getting a girl pregnant actually went down.
More kids think getting pregnant as a teenager is o.k. and in some cases desirable. It’s a public health nightmare that barely seven percent of all teens said they were abstaining to avoid disease.
Clearly, our sex education policy has left a lot of teens at risk.
I worry that they do not comprehend the difference between birth control and disease prevention.
Send your comments to nicolle.crist@gmail.com.
WCP 6.15.10

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