By: Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School-based Psychologist
Let’s talk about reproductive education or sex: with your kids. Home school sex education, is it too low brow for you? Do you like riding on your high horse? Know the answer to everything and are eager to share your knowledge? Me too. This weekend, though, I inadvertently saddled the donkey. While vacationing with my sister-in-law’s family, my eight year old son said, “Look, a double dragon-fly.” Quickly my 6 year old niece corrected him and said, “They’re mating.”
The Mating Game and Sex Education
In retrospect, it is never too early to explain the mating game to your kids. How do you know you’ve waited too late? When your son or daughter presents some distressing news to you that may pose a life changing situation. Or, when you accidently catch them watching sexualized content on TikTok.
In fact, a popular TikToker and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, physician, has this rule of thumb to offer parents during an interview for Parents magazine, “By the time most parents think they need to be talking about it with their teenagers, these teenagers have already had sex or been exposed [to sexual material] or have heard 27 different ways that they can get pregnant or can’t.”
Statista, in referencing App Ape data, found that as of March 2021, adolescents beginning at the age of ten to teens up to age 19, “accounted for 25 percent of TikTok’s active user accounts in the United States.” Why is this statistic important information for parents to know?
Researchers Fowler and Schoen analyzed the sex education content posted to TikTok and found the following most frequent topics (in ranked order):
- the female anatomy
- sexual pleasure (female organism and arousal)
- contraception, and
- sexual health
Anecdotal notes of School Psychologists in the Field
In the school setting, students during interviews often mention that they watch TikTok or Youtube as a past time afterschool. It may serve prudent for parents to monitor their child’s online activity and at a minimum take opportunities to provide information on subjects of interest to adolescent teens during puberty.
Lack of Parent involvement in Sex Education in the Home
Oprah and Seventeen (May 2009) magazines in collaboration with Harris Interactive surveyed a total of 2,000 mothers and girls between the ages of 15-22 years old. Less than 51% of the girls said that they ‘had spoken to their moms about making decisions to have sex’ in stark contrast to the 90% of moms who said the same.
Another survey of 1,000 kids between the 11 and 14 years of age and commissioned by Liz Claiborne, Inc. in 2008, found that almost half already had a boy/girlfriend and that 25% said that ‘oral sex’ or ‘going all the way’ was a part of their romance.
Why Parent Involvement in Sex Education is Crucial
The data clearly demonstrate that TikTok, Youtube and other view streaming services are tapping into the demand for adolescents to have their questions answered about sex, mating and reproduction. Seeking alternative and plentiful sources of educational information isn’t to be looked upon with disapproval, one could say. However, these platforms as of yet, have not devised a means to restrict the posting and subsequent user following of dangerous challenges. The Milk crate, Coronavirus, Baby Swing, and other come to mind. Are there challenges related to various sexual acts for which we are unaware, but are quite certain in the realm of things, have the potential to occur? Bestiality, pedophilia, incest, and others for example.
The purpose of this article is not to alarm, rather to prod to action. Please see below some suggestions to help break the mental blockage and resistance to broaching the uncomfortable subject of sex and reproduction.
Here are some suggestions to get started
- Go ahead and explain the bump on the stomach. Nope, you didn’t just pick up your kid at the hospital (this is what trapped me). Say, “Suzy is going to have a baby and it is inside of her.”
- Are you a little shy about describing copulation between a mom and dad? Pick up a handy nature or biology book. You’ll find pictures of whales and insects mating and you can take it from there.
- Don’t wait to delegate the ‘sex talk’ to gender-matched parent. It may be a delaying tactic to avoid the inevitable. So, go ahead and take a stab at it. A little information from a concerned dad or mom is better than misinformation from a peer or boy/girl friend with ulterior motives.
- Police your statements about the opposite sex and the sex act in general. Kids are influenced largely by what they hear from their parents. They may come to believe that that all boys/girls are mean or just after sex. It may take a life time to re-learn.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Did your child comes home from school and innocently asks, “What are drugs?” “What is a condom?” Don’t shut your systems down in a state of shock or place them in overdrive and respond with a 20 minute interrogation. Avoid lecturing and thank the heavens that your child asked you and not his 10 year old best friend across the street.
- If you select to opt out of the sexual education program at school, make certain that you are not vague about STDs, AIDS, teen pregnancy, contraceptives or abstinence.
Above are represented just a few ideas to get you started.
I hope this information has proven helpful for you, your child, and your family and loved ones as you navigate these perilous times. Please take care and God bless.
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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com
Leah R. Fowler, JD1, Lauren Schoen, BA2, Hadley Stevens Smith, MPSA, PhD2, Stephanie R. Morain, MPH, PhD21University of Houston Law Center, Health Law & Policy Institute, Houston, TX, USA2Baylor College of Medicine, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Houston, TX, USA
Parentology, Dangerous TikTok Trends
Parents Magazine, Is TikTok the Solution to Sex Education
Statista, TikTok Users by Age