Frequently Asked Questions
No. If anything, talking with your kids about sex, condoms, and birth control may even delay their initiation of sexual activity. Many teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex for the first time. According to research conducted by the CDC, the average age of sexual initiation is 17 for both males and females. By the time teens are 19, 70% of them will have had sex.
When talking with your kids about sex, it’s important to first share your values and expectations. You could say, “I’d really like for you to wait until you’re in a serious and healthy relationship,” or “I’d really like for you to take care of yourself and your partner if you choose to have sex.” Your kids will appreciate you being an active listener (meaning that you’re listening more than you’re talking.) By not interrupting them and by demonstrating understanding by nodding and paraphrasing their concerns, you will show them that what they’re saying really does matter to you. For more tips by age, check out our Talk With Your Kids Timeline + Tips.
It’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers and it’s okay to be honest with your kids about that. If you get asked a question that you don’t have the answer to, try saying, “Great question! I’m not sure if I have the right answer. Let’s see if we can find out the answer together.” Taking the time to search online, go to the library together, or discuss together at their next doctor’s appointment, will show them that you care and can be a trusted resource for reliable and accurate information - even if you don’t have all the answers.
If you’ve tried initiating a conversation about sex with your kids but they aren’t ready to talk with you, you can still ensure that they have access to reliable and accurate information by giving them this resource. Let them know you are there for them when they are ready to talk and if you don’t have all the answers, you can find them together. Additionally, you can encourage them to talk with another trusted adult, like a teacher or older sibling, if they have questions but they are not comfortable asking you.
Youth and young adults ages 15-24 make up only 27% of the sexually active population, but they account for half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year. Despite the fact that teen pregnancy and birth rates are at an all time low, there are still 1,600 teen girls that get pregnant every day in the U.S. Sharing information like this with your kids is a great way to show them that the consequences of having unprotected sex are real and can affect anyone, even youth in their own communities. Kidsdata.org is a great resource to find county and even city-level data about the rates of teen pregnancy and STIs that affect youth in your community. You can also find detailed state data about teen pregnancy at theNationalCampaign.org as well. If you are looking for detailed information about the rates of STIs among youth in your area, you can visit the California Department of Public Health’s STD Control Branch website and check out their local health jurisdiction data summaries.
You can’t assume that your teen is getting accurate and reliable information about sex and using condoms from their schools, friends, or the media. All teens need to know about condoms as a method of STD prevention and birth control so that if they do have sex, they are protected. It doesn’t matter if they are gay or straight, male, or female. It’s important to let your teen know that when people use condoms along with another birth control method during sex, they decrease their risk of getting pregnant, getting their partner pregnant or contracting an STD. You should let your teen know how to use a condom properly (there are some great video tutorials you can show them too like this one). You should also let them know where they can access condoms for free, whether from you, at a health center or through TeenSource's Condom Access Project.
While teen pregnancy and birth rates are on the decline, there are still more than 600,000 teen pregnancies each year. It’s important for all teens to know about birth control before they are sexually active so that they are aware of the most effective methods available to prevent pregnancy - before they start having sex.
Long acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are recommended as the most effective birth control methods for teens by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These methods are great for teens because unlike a pill that you need to remember to take every day, long acting reversible contraceptives are inserted by the clinician once and remain highly effective for years.
For more teen-friendly information about the different methods of birth control available, visit TeenSource.org. Teens can also find a clinic near them where they can get more information and access the method that is best for them.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that causes genital warts and abnormal pap smears and is the most common STD in the US. There are over 100 different types of HPV, but only a few of those cause genital warts. Other types of HPV can cause cervical cancer as well as some cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat. By getting your child vaccinated, you can help protect them against HPV and the health problems it causes - including these types of cancer.
HPV vaccines are most effective before exposure to HPV, meaning before they are sexually active. The HPV vaccine requires three doses and is recommended for all kids who are 11 or 12 years old. However, young women can still get vaccinated through the age of 26 and young men can get vaccinated through the age of 21. It’s recommended at ages 11 and 12 because it produces a higher immune response in preteens , meaning it becomes more effective, than it does in older teens. If your child is already sexually active, they should still get the HPV vaccine because they may not have been exposed to all of the strains of HPV that the vaccine protects against.
- There are two FDA approved vaccines available: Gardasil and Cervarix. Both protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause about 70% of cervical and anal cancers. Gardasil protects against an additional two: HPV types 6 and 11, responsible for causing 90% of genital warts.
- In December 2014, the FDA released their approval for Gardasil 9, a new vaccine for the prevention of an additional five types of HPV.
No. According to a study published in the November 2012 issue of Pediatrics, there is no association between HPV vaccination and increased engagement of sexual activity among youth. Multiple other studies, including this one published in JAMA Internal Medicine, have come to the same conclusion. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the vaccine for both girls and boys at ages 11-12, at an age when they have the highest immune response and well before they are exposed to HPV during sexual activity.