Moms in Babeland

What Kids Should Be Learning in School About Sex

Most parents wonder what the heck the kids are learning about sex in school. Typically, the school doesn’t send home anything other than a notice (or permission slip) that they’ll be talking about sex, and your child is not likely to be forthcoming. It’s difficult to know the specifics behind your children’s sex education curriculum, or if they even have one. In order to be sure your child is getting comprehensive sex education it’s wise to be clear about what should ideally be covered in school.

According to SIECUS, research shows that effective sexuality education programs share a number of common characteristics. They:

  • focus on reducing small numbers of sexual behaviors
  • are based on theories that have been effective in reducing other risky behaviors
  • give a clear message about abstaining from sexual activity as well as using contraception
  • provide basic accurate information
  • include activities that address peer and social pressures related to sex
  • allow students to practice communication, negotiation, and refusal skills
  • use a variety of teaching methods
  • are tailored to the age, culture, and experience of students
  • last a sufficient length of time
  • are led by teachers who are genuinely interested in the topic and receive adequate training

So is this the kind of sexuality education your kids are getting? A new brief from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth has been published by The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to its findings nearly all American teens ages 15-19 (97% of males and 96% of females) are receiving at least some formal sex education. Most of them received information about sexually transmitted diseases (92% of males and 93% of females), how to prevent HIV/AIDS (89% of males, 88% of females), and how to say no to sex (81% of males, 87% of females). Where the problem lies is in teaching kids about birth control: only 62% of males and 70% of females received this information. This means more than one third of teenagers is not learning how to prevent unintended pregnancy.

These statistics are consistent with the methods used in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Such programs do not provide information on contraception or disease prevention, and may contain fear-based messages meant to encourage young people to avoid sexual activity. In recent years, the U.S. government has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have the exclusive purpose of telling teens not to have sex until they are married. These programs do not provide young people with the basic information and skills to help them deal with challenges that they may face as they grow up. They are also not proven effective.

Do some research. Have a look at your kids’ handouts and textbooks, speak to their teachers and principals, even contact the maternal and child health program within your state’s health department to see if what’s being taught is the most comprehensive sex education.

Excerpted from SIECUS FAMILIES ARE TALKING Newsletter,Volume 2, Number 1, 2003. Learn more about SIECUS.

Have an anecdote or a comment about talking to your kids about sex? You can win prizes by posting comments on Moms in Babeland during October. Details.

Related posts:

  1. What Should Kids be Learning in School About Abstinence?
  2. Q: The kids hear so much in school the negative side effects of sex. Do you have any tips on how to offer a more pleasure-positive counterpoint?
  3. Sex Ed As It Should Be (Or Things I Wish I’d Learned in School)
  4. October is National Family Sex Education Month
  5. Toddlers and Preschoolers: Too Young for the Sex Talk?

topics: Parenting

3 Responses to “What Kids Should Be Learning in School About Sex”

  1. Shannon says:

    I recently tried to find information from the Seattle School District about when/if/what my child will get as far as sex ed goes and cannot find anything…anywhere. This is really disheartening for me. It is nice to have SIECUS as a reference for parents.

  2. Joe Kuemerle says:

    One curriculum that I really like (and that our Unitarian Universalist church uses for our middle school kids) is Our Whole Lives: . While it was developed by a *progressive* religious organization it is specifically is free of religious doctrine.

    Our outstanding teachers cover the full range of human sexuality, safety and lots of straightforward factual information. The youth really seem to appreciate the candor and are really well adjusted.

    Unfortunately it seems too often our society believes sex education will cause problems when my experience and observations usually show the opposite.

  3. Shannon: that’s awful that you were not given any information. But if you’re in Seattle proper, chances are that your child’s school will be using the FLASH curriculum (which has some small flaws, IMO, but is overall really good), unless something changes before then. Some information for that curriculum from King County is here:

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