Teen Sex Ed Covers the Birds and the Bees, Minus the Birth Control

Filed under: News, In The News, Weird But True, Sex, Education: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens, New In Pop Culture

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About one third of teens aren't learning about contraception in schools. Credit: Getty Images

Here's the good news on the controversial teen sex front: It turns out nearly all U.S. teens are getting the lowdown about sex at school. Now, the bad news: These conversations about sex and sexuality often skip contraceptives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report from the National Survey of Family Growth, 97 percent of American teens say they received some formal sex education before the age of 18. But only two-thirds say they have been schooled in birth control methods, with boys left in the dark more than girls -- 62 percent of males compared with 70 percent of females received instruction on methods of birth control.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was based on face-to-face interviews with nearly 2,800 teenagers conducted in their homes from 2006 through 2008. Female interviewers from the University of Michigan asked the questions for the CDC.

"We wanted to update the facts on how many teens are getting formal instruction on sex education and how frequently," says report author Joyce Abma, Ph.D, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics, in a podcast released in conjunction with the report.

But Laura Lindberg, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institude warns on CNN.com that even though the report shows a significant increase in sex ed from 2002, when 85 percent of teen girls and 83 percent of teen boys had received sex education, the survey changed its methodology, adding questions about HIV/AIDS that had not been asked before.

"We need to be very cautious when interpreting that because (the education) could be one hour of a discussion of a news article about AIDS in Africa," Lindberg tells CNN.com. "When you look at the key topics of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and birth control, they are much too low. What skills have (these teens) learned? Do they know how to prevent AIDS? If you don't include those two pieces of information, it's not adequate education."

According to a separate CDC study released earlier this year from the National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG), the number of teenagers having sex hasn't changed much over the last eight years. It looked at trends in sexual activity, contraceptive use and attitudes towards pregnancy in unmarried teenagers, and found that there have not been significant changes since the last NFSG report in 2002.

At the same time, the report found the number of teen pregnancies has decreased 20 percent. So, though students are not being taught about birth control in school, they are using it. In particular, the number of teens who regularly use condoms has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

Based on data from a two-year period between 2006 and 2008, the NFSG study found more than 42 percent of teenage girls ages 15 to 19 -- or 4.3 million -- have had sex at least once. That number was 43 percent -- or 4.5 million -- for teenage boys. Nearly 30 percent of boys and girls surveyed have had two or more partners.

Teenage girls who were younger when they had their first sexual encounter were more likely to have more partners. And teens whose mothers had their first child as a teenager and, at 14, did not have both parents in the home, were more likely to be sexually active.

Related: Teen Pregnancies at Record Low In California

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.