[ April 6, 2015 by Bryan Harris 0 Comments ]

Sex Education For Teens

When it comes to sex, the teen years are full of changes, pressures, and excitement. While the average age of first intercourse is 17, by the time students reach their teen years they’ve most likely heard something about sex.[1] Therefore much of the work with teens is correcting misinformation and guiding them to make the right decisions for themselves.

The National Sexuality Education Standards for high schoolers focus on analyzing, comparing and contrasting, and applying basic sexuality information. Obviously, the ability to do this depends on the type of education teens have already received. Opening activities that allow you to assess current knowledge are extremely useful. For example, you can have students categorize contraception options based on effectiveness to prevent pregnancy. This allows you to see what they already know and build off of that.

As with all sex education, what you teach should be age-appropriate with regards to both content and how it’s taught. Developmentally, teens are strengthening their abstract and critical thinking skills; however, their perception of risk often varies from adults.[2] Additionally, research shows that most students are concerned with the pleasurable and social aspects of sex while most curricula focus almost exclusively around pregnancy and disease prevention.[3] Finding a way to address these concerns is important. Two strategies for doing so include

  1. Using TV shows, songs, and other popular media to teach and process ideas around sex, relationships, body image and more is particularly poignant for this age group. Doing so gives them permission to explore their thoughts and feelings related to these topics.
  2. Focusing on values. What are your students’ values around sex? How do these play out in their relationships? Why do they hold these values? Do they differ from their parents/guardians? How and why?

Lastly, while teens have the reputation for being reckless, they often are grappling with a bit of insecurity as well. They want to fit in while simultaneously develop their independent identities. Finding ways to balance these needs and structure messages accordingly can help guide your teaching.



[1] CDC – Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth – Vaginal Intercourse. (2013). http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/s.htm#vaginalsexual

[2] Larsman, P., Eklof, M., & Torner, M. (2012). Adolescents’ risk perceptions in relation to risk behavior with long-term health consequences; antecedents and outcomes: A literature review. Safety Science, 50(9) 1740-1748.

[3] Guilamo-Ramos, V., Jaccard, J., Dittus, P., Bouris, A., Holloway, I. & Casillas, E.  (2007). Adolescent Expectancies, Parent-Adolescent Communication and Intentions to Have Sexual Intercourse Among Inner-City, Middle School Youth. Annals of Behavioral Medicine: 34(1).

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