Better Sex Education at Home!

There is no doubt that the U.S. needs better sex education for its youth; the statistics prove it.  “Each year, U.S. teens experience as many as 850,000 pregnancies, and youth under age 25 experience about 9.1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  By age 18, 70 percent of U.S. females and 62 percent of U.S. males have initiated vaginal sex” (Advocates for Youth, 1).   The Brook Advisory Service found in their research that “more than half of young people believed Chlamydia only affected women; a similar proportion didn’t realize emergency contraception could be used up to 72 hours after sex. Almost a third believed you could catch a sexually transmitted infection from a lavatory seat.  [This] study also revealed that only a third of sexually active young people use condoms consistently” (

The debate over what type of sex education will best reduce these sexually related risks has largely been focused on what the schools should do: to teach abstinence only or to teach comprehensive sex education, when to begin teaching sex education, how much depth to go into, etc…  However, a fundamental and primary educator in a child’s life is ignored in the sex education debate: a parent or caregiver.  Parents and caregivers have relinquished much of their responsibility over their children’s education to the schools.  “When young people are polled about where they want to get information from, the most popular choice is their parents. Parents who leave sex education to schools are leaving a lot to chance” (  I propose that sex education is placed back in the hands of parents! 

The ultimate goal of education (presumably sex education) could be defined as acquiring knowledge and skills to make rational decisions regarding sex.  It seems logical right of the bat, then, that abstinence only education is out the door.  Abstinence only education neglects to provide a student with information about contraception or condom use, information on abortion, etc… (Collins, 1).  The student, therefore, cannot make an informed and enlightened decision about sex.  Comprehensive sex education does provide this information to a student and it begins to help students make decisions based on what they have learned.  So while comprehensive sex education is a good start; it is by no means the end. 

Take for a minute this example:  a student learns the basics of sex in their sex education class: biology of the sex organs, that there exist these things called the pill and a condom, the current STI rate, that sex causes pregnancy (or maybe it’s that pesky fertilized ovum!), etc…  They come home after school, grab a snack and sit down to watch MTV with their January 2010 edition of Cosmo while simultaneously searching the internet for the unanswered questions about sex they have.  These students have no continuation of their sex education at home.  They have some of the basic knowledge about sex, but no support in talking about and making decisions regarding sex.  I’m pretty sure they continue their math and history education at home with their parents… why not their sex education?  We accept that our children will learn algebra, but we have not yet accepted that they will be having sex. 

Society has made sex taboo; and we need to overcome this taboo.  It won’t be easy; but we need to start someplace.  Parents need to sit down with their children and have an uncomfortable and awkward conversation about sex!  A survey done by BBC News: Health revealed “just 9% of parents believed schools should be the main source of advice about sex and relationships [and] that while 90% of parents believed sex education was best done by them, many are embarrassed and uncomfortable to tell their children the facts of life” (BBC news).     

The main consideration with at home sex education is that parents are going to educate their children about sex according to their bias (religious and moral beliefs).  This bias may not be a problem; as long as students still get a basic sex education in their school and know what is available to them.  For example; a child’s parents may believe strongly in abstaining from sex until the child is married and may try to educate their child according to these beliefs.  The child will then have both the knowledge of abstaining as well as contraception available to make their own decision.  What is crucial between a parent and child is the open dialogue that will result from this education.  Not only is the parent helping their child to acquire knowledge at home, they are becoming a resource for their child if they ever needed help (getting birth control, an abortion, etc…).

Another consideration is the education and training of parents in sex education.  Many parents may not have had a solid sex education or open dialogue with their parents and are unsure of their ability to answer the questions their child has accurately.  However, there are so many resources available to parents to help with this: helpful tips on talking to your child about sex, reliable medical and sexual health websites with accurate information on sex, groups, forums, etc…  Really, all parents need now is Google and maybe a library!

“There is evidence that positive parent-child communication about sexual matters can lead to greater condom use among young men and a lower rate of teenage conception among young women” (  This may be because “the sex education offered in many school today deals mostly with reproductive biology and sexual health,” perhaps in an attempt to avoid having to discuss abstinence or not.  “Parents need to supplement this by talking to their teens about morality and sexual ethics,” about relationship, intimacy, the nitty gritty details, etc… (

I think that Colin Wilson, a father of two middle-schoolers puts it well, “both parents and teachers can play a part.  It’s good for kids to learn sex education from others as well as from their parents.   And some children may take advice from their school more easily than from mom and dad.  Some parents may feel more comfortable having someone else raise these issues with their children” ( 

It is essential that these youth get the knowledge and support that they need.  Parents can and should provide this education for their children.  They are a primary source for information and support in a child’s life.  Sex education should start early (before adolescence) and continue through the teenage years.  Parents are a constant source of education in these children’s lives.  It seems right (and simple enough) that they should be their children’s primary sex educator!


Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education”

Advocates for Youth, “Effective Sex Education”

7 Responses to “Better Sex Education at Home!”

  1. JaNaye Schroeder says:

    It is true that something about our education system seems to not be working when it comes to slowing the spread of STIs and reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, but how will moving sex education into the home improve these rates? If sex education is moved out of the classroom curriculum and into the home, how can we be sure that all children are receiving the information that they need to have in order to be knowledgeable about sex? We can’t. By moving sex education out of the classroom and into the home ,we are putting a lot of faith in parents.

    Some kids do not have parents around, or they may have parents who are around but they are not active in their parenting. What about those kids? We are assuming that these kids have willing and able parents who will provide this education, but that is in an ideal world; one in which we do not live. Moving sex education out of the classroom and into the home will put these kids at a disadvantage because we cannot guarantee that they will receive any form of sex education at all.

    And who says parents actually want to teach their children about sex? The beauty of having sex education in the schools is so that parents do not necessarily need to have that awkward conversation with their children. Obviously there are some statistics stating that parents would like to be their children’s source of sex education, but you said in your debate that some parents would rather their children receive their sex education from someone other then the parent. Kids may not respect what their parents say about sex, and would be more reverent of an outside source telling them what they need to know.

    Expecting that parents educate their children about sex is ideal. It would be nice for sex education to move out of the classroom so time could be spent on other academia. However, if we cannot be sure that our students will be receiving the information that is necessary for them to be competent when it comes to sex, it is not acceptable for sex education to be removed from the classroom.

  2. Keisha Bates says:

    Similar to what JaNaye said, I agree that parents should definitely have a greater role in the sex education of their children. Replacing sex education in schools with sex education at home, however, could have some devastating effects. Karen stated that “The ultimate goal of education (presumably sex education) could be defined as acquiring knowledge and skills to make rational decisions regarding sex”. If we leave sex education to children’s parents, I highly doubt this goal will ever be reached. There is no way that we can regulate or require sex education in the home, thus we cannot assure that every child will receive said sex education. Even if we did, this would be a great infringement on the privacy of parents and families.

    According to a study done by Hazel J. Rozema (1986), the “communication climate” is much more tense and defensive than the communication climate with peers when it comes to talking about sexuality. This is often due to the fact that parents approach sex education from a more moral approach, thus meaning that they often come across as being patronizing, preaching, or condemning their children when having a discussion about sexuality (Uslander et al. 1977).

    In a study done on a town in Canada, 94% of parents supported sex education being provided in school and 95% agreed that sex education should be a shared responsibility between school and home. However, only a small percentage felt like they did a quality job of providing adequate sex education and only a few parents actually discussed sexual health topics in detail. For example, only 11% of parents with children in 6th-8th grade went into detail about sexual decision-making in dating relationships and only 21% of these same parents went into detail about abstinence (Weaver et al. 2002).
    Clearly, these studies strongly suggest that parents are not adequate enough of a source for sex education, an argument that I think is entirely true.

    Rozema, H. J. 1986. Defensive Communication Climate as a Barrier to Sex Education in the Home. Family Relations 35:531-537.

    Uslander, A. S., Weiss, C., & Telman, J. 1977. Sex education for today’s child: A guide for modern parents. New York: Association Press.

    Weaver, A. D., Byers, S., Sears, H. A., Cohen, J. N. and H. E. S. Randall. 2002. Sexual health education at school and at home: attitudes and experiences of New Brunswick parents. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 11:9-31.

  3. Kaitlyn O'Bryan says:

    I am a little confused about what you want to happen – do you want sex ed. to only take place in the home? Or, do you want parents to talk to their kids about sex in addition to school programs? To me, the later is kind of a given, perhaps someone could make the argument that no parent should have any discussion with their kids about sex, but I have yet to see that argument made.

    Regardless, I liked how you began to address how parents would educate themselves before educating their kids but there were some lapses in how this would actually occur. It is true that there are many resources to help parents, but this assumes that the parents have time and access to these resources. Furthermore, many of these resources may not be accessible for parents who are illiterate or do not know the language that these resources are written in. Do we just assume that these parents will figure it out by themselves? Teachers and educators are trained not only in the content areas of sex ed. but also have a basic knowledge of adolescent psychology and pedagogy to present sex ed in a way that is accessible to students. We would be forfeiting this knowledge and replacing it with some one who googled “bird and bees talk with kids”. We certainly do not trust parents to teach their kids algebra at home by googling “foil method of factoring polynomials of degree 2” – why would we entrust parents to teach something so basic and important when they do not have the background to do so?

  4. Megan Myhre says:

    Leaving sex education up to parents is a scary thing. Leah makes a good point that many children might prefer to get the facts straight from their parents and that it would also promote good communication. On the other hand, I would absolutely not trust my parents to teach me or, even worse, my brothers about sex education. I am almost 21, and I don’t even vaguely recall even getting a sex talk, let alone even hear the word sex in my house. Although I assume that they would prefer for me to wait and I would want them to know if I am sexually active, but I would NOT want to tell them face to face.

    I honestly don’t think that the majority of parents would want to accept that their children, their little babies, are having sex. The reason sex education is in the schools in the first place is because parents do not want to talk about it, or maybe don’t want to accept their sexually active children. The school system lends a neutral and monitored ground for kids to not only discuss with eligible adults, but also their peers in a way that doesn’t decide for them or pressure them like a parent would.

    Leah states in her debate, “I’m pretty sure they continue their math and history education at home with their parents… why not their sex education? We accept that our children will learn algebra, but we have not yet accepted that they will be having sex.” It is because, like we discussed in class today, sex is supposed to be a private thing. Just as your parents taught you to keep your skirt down in public, they leave the discussion of your “privates” off limits with them. This is where the sex education in the home method would fail, as wonderful as the idea would be for kids and their relationships.

  5. Jericho Westendorf says:

    From what I gather, you are advocating for a basic sex education at school with continued education at home. This approach seems to be the most comprehensive, however there are few comments I would like to make.

    When talking about the main consideration with at home sex education you said, “bias may not be a problem; as long as students still get a basic sex education in their school and know what is available to them.” If a parent chose to only teach their child about abstinence, but the school taught comprehensive sex ed, it would give mixed signals. It would lead to a conflict where the child is forced to choose between what they learned in school or what they learned at home. School vs. parents. In that case the child’s sex education was not complete, comprehensive or clear.

    You addressed the other consideration of the education of parents. It is true that many parents have not had solid sex education. The solution given is for the parents to seek out information about how to educate their children through the web and the library. However, even armed with that information the parent still may not be able to successfully teach and mentor the child. Teachers have been taught how to be teachers; they are given tools to help educate and relate to students. Even home schooling parents must have a college degree, teaching certification or be supervised by someone who does. Yet, parents are allowed to teach their children without receiving any instruction about how to do so?

  6. Alison Mastain says:

    My primary concern with Leah’s debate is that while it seems as though she has schools teaching the biology of human reproduction and the general spread of different contraceptive options, there is no way to guarantee that parents will educate their children, or teens, about sex. In her debate Leah states, “I’m pretty sure they [the students] continue their math and history education at home with their parents… why not their sex education?” Well, let us remember for a moment that not all parents are deeply involved in their children’s lives, either because they are uninterested or unable. Even the statistic that “90% of parents believed sex education was best done by them” includes the admission that many parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about sex (BBC News). If people are uncomfortable with performing a particular action, they generally tend to avoid it- whether or not they think it is for the best.

    Also, we must ask ourselves what exactly are the benefits of putting primary sexual education in the hands of the parents? While it would be possible for the parents to instill their desired morals and expectations in their child through this method, it would also be possible to do that if at home education was a supplementary form of education in addition to school based sexual education programs. Why take away school based sexual education programs from those who need it most, the teens which are neglected by their parents and (likely) feel the most pressure to have sex? Through this method, neglected teens would most likely get almost no sexual education, except for what they learn from television and magazines like Cosmo.

  7. Martin Barnard says:

    While I agree that parent should talk to their children about sex and sexual ethics, there could be many unintended consequences of this shift. As many parents will explain, teens often disregard the instructions given by parents. For this reason I do not think that sexual education should hinge on parents. Personally, my parents never sat me down and had “the talk.” However, I still have learned the importance of safe-sex and the repercussions of unprotected sex. There is ultimately no gain by placing sexual education primarily in the realm of parents. By keeping sexual education is school, every teen receives the appropriate information about safe sex. Leah even recognizes the bias that parents will have on sexual education. This bias may have many undesired consequences such as uninformed information about safe sex. In order for parents to educate their children properly about safe sex, don’t parents need to be properly informed about safe sexual practices. Unfortunately, not every American parent has this information and asking parents to research sexual education, which might educate parents, will not necessarily result in correct information being passed along to teens who need the facts. As I questioned previously: Are parents advocating for comprehensive sexual education because of a desire to not teach their children this information? For these reasons, I think that sexual education should still remain primarily in school curriculums.