Study after study shows that teenagers today want more information about sex than what they are getting. When asked how they would prefer to hear about it, most would rather from their parents; not from their friends/sex ed class/ books or google.
But do they actually talk to their parents about sex? NO! Because their parents hold back; the parents get uncomfortable. Why are Indian parents so reluctant to discuss sex with their teenagers?
"I don't want to encourage it." Many believe that talking to young people about sex will lead to premature sexual activity; that children will interpret their parents' willingness to talk as permission to become sexually involved. On the contrary what does happen is that lack of proper information increases unsafe sex.
First of all, as parents we cannot deny that nowadays our children’s identities are built around their online & social presence.This is the new world they are communicating in and relating to. Technology is an essential part of their lives and there is no point in putting barricades in their lives and limiting the access to information. When adolescents are denied access to interactive sex education, they find an obvious, but unreliable alternative: Google. Although the internet also has plenty of medically accurate health information, most young individuals don’t understand how to differentiate among falsehoods, fantasies, and trusted medical sources.
Searching online for information about sex more often than not leads them straight to pornography. Now the more frequently a teenager is exposed to porn, the more they tend to believe it’s a realistic and acceptable depiction of sex in real life. Secondly, the few conversations that do come up between parents and teenagers are concerning cases of rape and sexual violence. Though necessary and pertinent, this conversation is not enough. Sexual feelings and sexual relationships; issues that concern adolescents most are rarely ever mentioned. Sexuality among children and adolescents is completely ignored in our country and we still scoff at the idea that our teenagers are very much active sexually.
Adolescents are engaging in sexual acts and that is the reality. We as parents and adults mostly find out only after they elope or through the rise in teenage pregnancies. We constantly find faults with western countries, while ignoring the reality in our own backyard. We need to let go of our own inhibitions to have open conversations and encourage discussion as only knowledge will allow adolescents, especially adolescent girls, to make wise choices.
It is extremely important to build a group of sexuality educators who have the language to communicate with adolescents in a manner that is both comfortable and enriching, where they can voice their concerns and clarify the myths surrounding their sexuality. This could be done through trained professionals who provide the correct information in an appropriate manner and help clear misconceptions in a non-judgmental manner. At Centre for Sexual & Mental Health we help create a space to address these issues with adolescents and teenagers.