Fewer teens are having sex today than in 1991, 7% less to be exact down from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent as of 2005. The teens that are having sex are using condoms making the teen pregnancy rate drop to a record low. This statistic is more than good news in a society of struggling economies and non existent job security. More teens are finishing high-school finally realizing the importance of a diploma and education. Not only is this good news it’s great news in the fight against AIDS more teens using condoms means less acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
According to www.cnn.com teens who had sex during a three-month period in 2005, 63 percent which is about 9 million used condoms. That figure is up 46 percent from 1991. That same report put the teen birth rate at an all time low, 21 per 1,000 young women ages 15-17 in 2005 down from 39 births per 1,000 teens in 1991. Most if not all of these statistic changes can be attributed to an aggressive sex education program occurring in schools all over the country. Programs in high-schools teaching the need for protection when teens do decide to have sex has dramatically increased preaching protection rather than abstinence. Abstinence education has long been pushed by Evangelical Christians as an answer to teen pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases but hasn’t been proven to work. With the development of Sex Education classes, updated materials and printed pamphlets for parents as well as teens families are learning new ways to talk to each other about sex.
Teen pregnancy has put children at risk both for the mother and child less girls were gaining their diploma and more children were becoming latch key kids while their single mothers struggled to make ends meet. The cycle of teen pregnancy carries over for generations unless we educate children on the importance of protection and respecting yourself enough to want better for your life. Organizations such as the Joey Di Paolo AIDS Foundation and Reach Out Inc. founded in 1989 by Lori Michaels, www.reachoutinc.com has been educating children and teens for years about sex education and disease prevention. Reach Out accomplishes this by interactive music shows that tour different schools in different counties of New Jersey as well as traveling around the United States to participate in events for and about children and teens.
Parents have gotten in on the act finally facing the subject head on with their kids. For decades sex has been a hush, hush subject in most households with parents afraid to confront their kids on the subject for fear of their own insecurities. Now with sex being front and center of most television networks they are finding it harder and harder to avoid. The internet, cell phones, and instant messaging have made it much easier for kids to obtain information from credible and not so credible sources and the wealth of information can be both helpful and destructive. Today’s “Role Models” are Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan not exactly the best influences on your child so to combat that negative energy parents are standing up and being accounted for.
Much of the new statistics are being linked to parents reading to their children more. Toys and electronics are all the rage but a good book can combat much of what society has to offer our children. The morals and values taught in a good book can have a lasting effect on a child at an age where retention of information is at its highest. More young children are getting reading time. 60 percent of children ages 3-5 (not in kindergarten) were read to daily by a family member in 2005 ;that is up from 53 percent in 1993.
Cable stations such as MTV have taken an active role in the prevention and education of the AIDS epidemic starting in the 80’s and 90’s when the spread of the disease was at its highest. Taking on that responsibility has proven helpful to reach teens whose lives are lived by what they see on MTv and VH1. In too many situations recently the government has tried to regulate through Right Wing Conservative Christians what is the proper way to educate teens on sex and abstinence programs. Teens are going to have sex whether we like it or not, we can either try to prevent them from having sex and short of padlocking their underwear that just isn’t going to happen. The only other resolution is to teach children that if they’re going to have sex they should protect themselves and wait for the right person, a long term relationship rather than a one night stand, they should be monogamous with each other and be tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases.
With the inclusion of alternative programs outside of school such as Reach Out Inc. we can find new ways to get through to kids and teens. Through music and the arts we can reach a broader range of people and educate a whole new generation on how to convey safe sex to their children. It will always start at home but at least now there are more options for parents and teachers today that can assist them in making the right choices for their children. We can create a new cycle of responsibility and education so that in the years to come more teens will graduate high-school which will allow them to get better jobs and be settled in careers. I do believe that healthy and happy children can be raised in a single parent home as long as the parent isn’t a child themselves. It will benefit both mother and child.
The health care system will also benefit from a decline in teen pregnancy there will be less single mothers without health insurance having children and more waiting for the right time to get pregnant. Today the average cost to have a child in the hospital can be at least $13,000 and that’s not even accounting for hospital visits after birth, doctors’ appointments and regular tests that need to be given to a newborn. Universal Healthcare is a hot button issue right now in the House and Senate most are weighing the benefits while fighting a backlash from the Healthcare providers. President Clinton was the first to propose universal healthcare for every American citizen but received a huge wall of descent from the House and Senate who were taking money from healthcare lobbyists. With the new reprise of this universal healthcare idea it seems more and more people are worried about what happens to them when they are sick or want to have children. This could have contributed to the decline in teen pregnancy. Most teens are getting involved in their government, participating in elections and fighting for change in and around their communities this renewed interest can play a roll in the choices they make as young adults. In conclusion this can only be a good sign and if we continue to work towards positive changes in our youth they will carry it over to their children and grandchildren.