When it comes to teen sex – dealing with prevention is better than dealing with the consequences. With the outspoken curiosity of teenagers today, it is reasonable to conclude that sheltering them from the three letter word S-E-X is no longer an option.
While some parents might take the time to educate their children about sex, when a child leaves the boundaries of their home they may face other factors that could influence their perspective on the subject.
A study conducted by the City of Toronto showed that teen pregnancy rates decreased 32 per cent between 2001 and 2009. The study also showed that from 2007 to 2009, areas in Scarborough had neighbourhoods with higher rates of teen pregnancy than the city overall. The decline in teen pregnancy rates does not necessarily mean that fewer teens are having sex. According to Statistics Canada, about 50 per cent of all 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are sexually active and the figure has not changed.
The question after these facts is: what is being done to educate teenagers about every responsibility that comes with having sex at a young age – the burden of an unplanned pregnancy, the possibility of getting an STD and the emotional turmoil that comes with immaturity?
Secondary schools offer a parenting course whereby students get the opportunity to experience early motherhood by caring for an artificial baby.
Raquel Grace-Moses, a grade 12 student at Blessed Pope John Paul Catholic Secondary School, says she has seen five girls get pregnant in the past year and believes that classes like these are only contributing to the problem.
“These classes are sugar-coating being a mother. I see a lot of teen moms and they’re having a hard time. But when you take the parenting class, you have time to do your makeup because the baby turns on at eight and turns off at four, so basically you’re a 12-hour parent,” Grace-Moses says.
“In reality, you have the baby 24/7 and that depends on whether the baby’s father is involved or not. The course makes it feel like you can have the baby by yourself and makes it looks like it’s really easy. It doesn’t even tell you how much it costs for diapers, food, clothes and stuff for the baby.”
There are sex health clinics in Scarborough that give out free condoms, low-priced birth control pills, and Plan B pills to teenagers and family centres like the YWCA that offer programs for teen mothers. But none of these centres offers any sex education.
Some parents dread the day when their child asks: “where do babies come from?” Whether a parent chooses to lie for the sake of their child, or tell them the edited version of the truth, we cannot deprive a child from knowing. When they reach an age when curiosity is at its highest, it is our job as a society of parents, caregivers, teachers, principals and role models to talk about sex and all that is associated with it – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Tiptoeing around the idea or sweeping it under the rug with quick fixes like condoms, birth control pills and Plan B pills does not solve the problem. Every pressured, confused, misguided and scared teenager has the right to know the truth – the whole truth and we can only ensure that by talking.
So, let’s talk about sex.