When youth make their own sex ed videos…

Just wanted to share this video, written by youth from Teens PACT (Positive Action and Choices for Teens). Some say it sends the wrong message and promotes sex in its tongue-in-cheek humor. Others think the approach makes it more effective. I haven’t decided. Truth is, nothing like this in isolation makes for effective prevention, but I love the fact that these young people are getting creative in the name of safe sex!

Recent reports on teen sexuality and sex education

A month is too long to go without a post, but to be honest during these past couple of weeks I have been thinking less about teens, sex, and the internet and more generally about how young people use the internet to learn, grow, and develop. These thoughts are occupying me as I try to think about how we can best support youth and young adults to become leaders and can the internet help in that goal?

Meanwhile, the latest news on the sexual health of our youth is not good. A recent report published by the Guttmacher Institute states that between 2003-2007, teen contraceptive use declined by 10%, even though rates of sexual activity remained stable. Not surprisingly, the teen birth rate increased 5% between 2005-2007. The authors of the report posit that abstinence-until-marriage sexuality education may deserve part of the blame.

And speaking of sex education, a report out of Canada notes that the sex education there does not match the wants of the teens who receive it. According to the wonderful Cory Silverberg, sex educator extraordinaire, teens reported learning about:

  1. HIV/AIDS
  2. STIs
  3. Pregnancy/birth control.

But they WANTED to hear about:

  1. Healthy relationships
  2. HIV/AIDS
  3. Sexual pleasure

These findings support what I have been witnessing for a long time now — so-called “comprehensive” sex education is anything but. Sex should not be taught outside of the context of relationship.

I hope to be back writing and pondering how technology fits into all of this soon!

The Personal and the Private Goes Public (Health)

It’s all over the news, so it’s not exactly private. The 17-year-old daughter of Republican VP candidate Palin is 5 months pregnant. The Republican take on this is “at least she is marrying the father and keeping the baby” — they have to put a positive spin on this somehow. Democratic candidate Obama wants the rest of us to leave the families of politicians alone: “I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories,” quotes the New York Times.

But, I can’t back off. It’s the hypocrisy here that kills me. The Republican platform advocates for abstinence-until-marriage “sex” education — clearly, Palin’s daughter did not follow her mother’s belief system. She had sex before marriage, which according to her mother is the only option for persons when deciding what to do about their sexuality.

The Republican platform also tends to stress the role of the family and how it is up to parents to ensure that their children are responsible, successful human beings. Now, I am not saying that a pregnant teen cannot grow up to be successful. But I can’t help thinking that, if it were a Democratic candidate’s teen daughter who was pregnant that the Republican’s wouldn’t be shouting “this candidate has failed as a parent! I bet he will also fail as a leader. If he can’t control his family, who can he control?” Yet, here the talk is of course supportive: “Good for Bristol for keeping the baby!” “Good to hear she is marrying the father!” Is it? Studies show that people who marry at younger ages tend to have much higher divorce rates. And given the public spotlight of this particular relationship, I don’t think the odds are good for this young couple. Supporting a legal union between these two smacks of politics more than true concern for these two young persons who are trying to make the best of a tough situation.

It’s personal, but I am curious to know if these two used any contraception, and if so, did they know how to use it consistently and correctly? True, a woman can become pregnant using even the most effective forms of contraception. And it’s a shame that this young person is faced with an unexpected pregnancy — and unexpected baby — whether or not she used “protection.” I just wish that somehow this incident can change the Republican agenda which strives to teach children LESS about sex and contraception. Can’t Palin look at her family and think “maybe talking about sex isn’t such a bad idea after all.” “Maybe young persons should learn about different contraceptive methods and their effectiveness at preventing pregnancy?” After all, learning about different ways to prevent pregnancy — including, but not limited to abstinence — reduces the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy. Can’t we use this incident to open up dialogue related to healthy sexuality?