Austin 360 wrote a piece on my SXSW presentation called Sex Ed Online: How Teens Self Savvy. It’s a great synopsis of the hour-long conversation.
The gist: From terminology to kissing techniques, kids use Google as a sexual resource. It’s their Dr. Ruth. “In some ways, kids are much more naive about sex,” says Rayne, an adolescent sexuality researcher and middle school teacher. “But in other ways, they’re much more knowledge.” She gives an example — a student in class asked her one day what a nipple was — the same kid who often walks down the hallways singing along to songs with sexually explicit lyrics.
So what to do? Parental controls aren’t the answer (“All the kid has to do is search ‘How to break a parental control’ said Rayne). But how do you stop your child from learning about sex? Or is that the right question? People often ask her: “When do I have a talk about sex with my kids?” But Rayne argues the “birds-and-bees” talk should be an ongoing thing, not just a one-time deal. And it’s not the child’s duty to start the conversation; parents should be proactive. “Sex is your responsibility as parents to bring up – not your kids,” she said.
Both panelists agreed sex ed in the classroom is underfunded. (“Texas has one of the worst sex education programs, and one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country,” said Kreps). The result can be sex ed-gone-wrong: a gym teacher told a student of hers that jumping up and down would kill fertile eggs.
It’s also important to establish early bonds with your children, said the panelists. Fifty percent of children have lied to their parents about reading or watching sexual content online, according to Kreps’ research. “That doesn’t mean talking to your kid on your laptop or while your cooking,” said Rayne.
Takeaways: Be present with your kids. Sit down and browse the Internet together. (There is useful information out there — learning how to be intimate, how to develop emotional connections, choosing a reliable mate). But mostly importantly, have a conversation — and many more. The problem is “we don’t talk about these topics openly,” Rayne stressed.