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Mariam Sambe

Researcher - Health Education,

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Who's responsibility is it to teach sex-education? Parents or Schools?

Many schools in the West are no longer giving sex-education in schools. And, unfortunately, most parents are uncomfortable to talk to their kids about sex. Hence, youngsters end up getting partial or even incorrect information from the internet. In my opinion, teenagers MUST receive proper information about safe sex practices before they engage in sexual practices. But, who's responsibility is it to give it to them?

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  • May 30 2013: I've looked over the comments here, and it seems the general consensus is "It's the parent's job, but school needs to step in if they don't do it." Sounds good to me. I'm fine with letting schools explain the mechanics of sex to my future kids. That's information that doesn't necessarily need to come from me. But I fully plan on sitting down with my boys when they're eight years old and having a talk about sex. They're going to be seeing sexually suggestive things more or less everywhere. They won't have hit puberty yet, but in today's world that's not even going to matter because of the sexualization of everything. There's going to be kids at school talking about it already. They need to know about how to control their thoughts, how to treat women with respect and not as sex objects, and what sex is actually for. I want the groundwork laid before their sex drive even starts to kick in, so they know what's coming and how to handle it. If my childhood is any indication, there's going to be boys around them by the time they're 11 that are already going to be dabbling in pornography. I want them to have full control over themselves well before then.
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      May 31 2013: Scot Wilcox.....you are one smart dad.
      • Jun 1 2013: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I don't have any kids yet though. I'm just getting married today!
    • May 31 2013: Scott, I wish that every parent took this tact.

      The greatest issue I struggle with, or have struggled with, regarding sex ed is we don't start the discussion early enough and we don't talk enough about the "sexualization" of everything. The portrayal and the reality are very different.

      Sadly, many parent won't even broach the topic with their kids other than to say "don't do it" or "use protection if you do". That to me, is incredibly irresponsible. Worse, many educators feel that is what we should do and provide little in the way of education of what to actually do or how to actually protect themselves.
      • Jun 1 2013: I completely agree. How we think about sex profoundly affects how we treat the other gender. Media uses sex to sell products, as in "If you buy this you'll get more." So it's very easy for boys to get this idea that sex is a competition, that in order to be a man you need to sleep with as many girls as you can. Add this to widespread pornography use and you get a culture where women are sex objects and status symbols. It's also becoming the same way for girls, where in order to be "sexy" they need to buy beauty product X and be painfully skinny. Don't ask me why being sexy is so important, I don't know. In the long run, it means when kids arrive and the going gets tough the men run on to the next woman. Lo and behold, in America, there are 10 million single mothers. (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb12-ff08.html). I won't even go into all the research about how children raised in single parent households are more likely to be in poverty, fail school, and become delinquent. I feel like people are so afraid of being seen as "prudes" they throw away common sense here. This is a major problem in our society. Sex can be a great way to show love and strengthen bonds. But when it's simply a crutch to being manly you've got some problems.
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    May 30 2013: Hi Mariam,
    Idealy, sex education would be provided by the parents or guardian. Unfortunately, too many parents are not available. It seems logical that the school could then provide sex education, because having a good sense of sexuality is an important factor for all kids, as they are maturing.

    That being said, if parents are not available, and sex education is no longer provided in schools, perhaps it takes a village to raise a child, and we can ALL be better role models for children and young adults?
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    May 31 2013: Educating kids(of any topics) start from their parents, not from school, Without parents educating kids and school cannot do the job. Each kids have defferent level of knowledge about sex. Why? A kid with elder brothers or sisters have more knowledge than a kid without them. The issue is very delicate and sensitive, parents should start to provide knowledge about sex before anybody else can. School can only give kids over-all general idea about sex, period.
    • May 31 2013: That's a very good point, Masaaki. Kids with older siblings tend to have a head-start in lots of areas of development.
  • May 30 2013: It is both.

    Parents are responsible for teaching values and morals to their children and their expectations about human sexuality. They must teach what they believe so that the child understands what they feel is appropriate or expected as a member of the family unit they are in. This could be a "wait til marriage" philosophy or a "use protection" philosophy. But the parents should be the first guide for the child.

    I also believe that the teachers have a role. As educators, and yes I have taught this many times, we are responsible fro providing factual information to our students about human sexuality. This can include relationships, dating, sexuality, diseases, and the realities of disease prevention. We should be teaching as much scientifically accurate information as possible so our students are informed about what is out there and what the truth is. We can also share our values, as long as they are couched as our "values" and not "fact".

    There is a great deal of misinformation out there and kids need to know what is correct. As many sources providing accurate information to them as possible isn't a bad thing. Mostly, kids need a safe place to ask questions that they are not comfortable asking in other environments. If we can cultivate that type of education in all areas, we will go a long way towards improving sexuality education. Some countries do this quite well, just not the United States as a whole.
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    May 30 2013: nothing changes.

    of course it's the job of the parents. like changing shitty nappies and foisting vegetables onto kids sold on cola and fast food.

    school is just a distraction between childhood and adulthood and is at the whim of politics and trends.

    like everything in life, real lessons are learned first-hand. most of the time, that means screwing up. no pun entendred
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    May 30 2013: Sex education should start with educating the parents and the teachers.

    They should know when, what and how to talk to their children about sex.

    As Teachers and parents are responsible ,educating them is the responsibilty of state.
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    May 30 2013: The responsibility should be the parents.

    The reality, is society.....through racey advertising, tv programs, music, pornography...sex is everywhere.

    This is very sad....and the cause of alot of unwanted teenage pregnancies, and single moms, not to mention STD's....and emotional traumas.

    Mariam, how long have you been in Health Education?
    What is your take on what is happening with today's youth?
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      May 30 2013: Hi Mary,
      Thanks for the response. Parents have the responsibility to teach their kids about sex, but when they don't do it, teacher may have to take over I think.

      I've been in health education for about 8 years.

      Today's youth are surrounded by so much technology that it is affecting (in a good and bad way) they way they communicate and the way they get information. Technology is growing so fast that what happened to a youth 2 years ago is different from what will happen to his little sister today. Hence, the importance for parents to quickly adapt. Like Adesh said above, it is fundamental for parents AND teachers to be properly educated to give sex-education, but to also speak in the langue youth understand.
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        May 30 2013: Hi Mariam,

        As a teacher, I will say, that I was never....NEVER....prepared to give sex education talk to my students.

        Oh, well, yes, they gave us materials, but a workshop, and information given in a class environment, where we, the educators, could ask questions on how to best deal with teaching this information.....Nope....never.

        Many adults are very insecure about talking to children regarding this most important topic.

        I have educated my own children early on about their body, and about sex.
        Watching tv programs (what few are left that are appropriate) always, and I mean always, provide teachable moments..........not really through the program, but through the commercials.

        Ever been in a room with a 6 year old when a Victoria Secret commercial comes on?
        It's disgusting (our remote is always on hand)............even worse are their catalogs. That's just one example that quickly comes to mind.

        There is wonderful information out there for parents to educate themselves on how to teach their children about sex, and what is appropriate at each stage of development.

        I don't think that it has any place in school. But unfortunately, since many parents have failed to do their job, then many school districts have incorporated it into their curriculum.

        Have you found one particular resource that is helpful for parents when it comes to teaching about sex ed?

        Can you provide a link? Or the name of a book?
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          May 30 2013: No actually, I haven't. Other than the one you just sent me. That's actually why I am posing this question here.
          I never received sex-education from my parents (big taboo in my culture), so I got it from friends and school. This is the reality of most African and Asian countries where talking about sex is not common, so kids receive their sex-ed in high school (which can be too late as they reach early-teen in middle school or primary school).
          I'm very glad to see everyone's answers here.
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        May 30 2013: Mariam, the not talking about sex ed is not mutually exclusive to African and Asian cultures.
        I am Cuban, and it is tabboo in our culture as well.

        Little by little those of us who have been raised abroad are making changes and seeing the value of educating our little ones.

        I wish you much success in your endeavor.
        Let me know through email if I can be of further assistance.

        Mary.
  • May 30 2013: I think primarily parents, however I wonder how many parents are really qualified for the job. On the other hand, teenager pregnancy is a matter of public health in many countries right now. So maybe the schools (public schools I mean) should enable parents to do such task properly instead of trying to educate children directly.
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    May 30 2013: Every people have desire, also young people. It is particular object, because young people have great attention to try explore un-experience thing. I grow in the middle family with full respect in liberalism, I'm a moslem but this is not bother my perspective.

    As a son with young age (few years ago), I always ask to my family or my school mate (Friends or My teachers) if I'm not understand with the thing. Moreover about "dirty things", I was often asking my Mom and My teacher to explain about "sex content". The great thing, their always answer my question with sentences that can be digested properly. So I always enjoy with my question even though I ask about sex thing. First thing, I want convey to you how to be Important to good answer, don't let they feel cornered with their question. Still respect with that. The problem is how to teach they with good persuasive, not vulgar but still educated. So don't discuss sex education is necessary or not, because it's still important. Second, give they feedback to let often asking about "sex content" where their not understand enough.

    So if your question, who's responsibility is it to teach sex-education? Parents or Schools? Exactly it is Our, Whoever we are either as Teacher, Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Neighbor, or Class mate. We all have same responsibility to educate one each other. So let it flow, let they finding the things what they need. Especially Parents, don't forget to watch and stay controlled their activity. Because family is everything.
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      May 31 2013: Agnan what a beautiful explanation of your own personal experience.
      Thank you for sharing this.

      May I ask you? What, in your opinion, helped you be so open in asking questions about "dirty things" to your mom and teacher? Alot of children and young adults are afraid to ask these types of questions.

      "Family is everything"....yes, family is very very important.
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        May 31 2013: Respect one each other. If young people afraid to ask, don't force them to make question. So am I, As a son with young age few years ago. I'm asking, if I needs. So let they finding the things what they need. Always, give they a trust.

        Environment where I live always give humble ambience and feel enjoy to discuss some "dirty things" as long as not out of topic.
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          Jun 1 2013: Thank you for your reply.
  • May 30 2013: Hi Mariam,
    I agree with some here, that it's a joint responsibility. I certainly do not intend to sit back and let school teach my kids about something this important!
    I would say, as a parent, I would concentrate on the emotions that drive love making. We are already talking about how babies are made, which I think is an unavoidable subject. My kids are wondering about their own existence, and I would never dream of saying, "Sorry, kid, wait till you're in school so they can tell you".
    The school can explain the biological part with boring slide shows... The social aspect of sex-ed at school, I mean the giggling and the sniggering when the plastic genitals come out of the closet, is an important part of the process too...

    edit - spelling and grammar due to reminiscent sniggering
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    Jun 4 2013: Let's hope that people see the value of involving both teens and parents in the mix. I just read about how ID Alliance in Cleveland has been using Peer Educators (teens) to educate other teens about safe sex and it works! Parents there also understand that open dialogue about sex, STDs, HPV, etc., can work when done in a safe environment. The Huffington Post just picked up the story too ... http://huff.to/15pNzyU.

    We need to see this similar program modeled all across the country.
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    Jun 3 2013: never the less the child or adult will be exposed to some form of sex education at some point in time. however i do agree that it is some one's responsibility.
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    Jun 1 2013: Both parents and school should teach sex education. But why stop there. Why not teach sex education in churches and on television?

    Ok, maybe that last would be too much, but if we are going to have a stable society with a strong civilization, we have to give young people what they need to make smart choices. I believe that all children should have both a mother and a father and a home to live in with food to eat and a school to attend.

    And I think the best way to do that is to give good information to young people as part of their education. Educated people know how to be successful in an advanced, technological society. And being responsible with your sexual choices is critically important. That takes education. The more the education the better.

    The mechanics of sex are not all that complex. And the technology of birth control is easily obtained from any licensed physician. You don't need to teach sex-education every day for weeks and weeks and years and years. Reading and mathematical skills can take years to develop to the college level. But sex-education can be covered in a week or two. The harder thing is to teach strong moral values and respect for ourselves and other people.

    But all of this has to be taught together. And we are ALL responsible for getting that job done.
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      May 30 2013: I think same with you, but however sex-education still important to educate young people in school. may the problem is how to teach they with good persuasive, not vulgar but still educated.

      Actually, teacher can give feedback to students and let their often asking about "sex content" where their not understand enough. It's to be good for make ambience in the study room. Because this is my experience few years ago as a student, these condition make me feel enjoy to discuss some "dirty things" as long as not out of topic.
  • May 30 2013: Parents.

    However, other trusted adults should not be ostracized for answering questions.

    It would be prudent to first ask the child,"Have you asked your parents about that?".

    For the adults concerned about the potential consequences, it might be also prudent to talk to the the parents prior to responding, or have another adult present. But teachers, nurses, doctors, other family members, or even close family friends should not feel cornered if the question gets asked, particularly about the physical aspects.

    I think questions like "should I" or "shouldn't I" might be better parental questions though, as they are setting moral boundaries and carry some pretty severe potential consequences.

    Perhaps we should also set the minimum age somewhere at the beginning of adolescence.

    Parents responsibility though.
    • May 31 2013: Agreed, Robert.
      When I was a kid, the entire bottom plank of the bookshelf was dedicated to our books. I would peruse and select a stack of them before going to bed. One day, I found a new book in between the Dr. Suess-es and the A.A. Milne-s, a book called 'What's Happening to my Body', one for girls, and one for boys.
      I didn't know where these books came from, but would 'sneak' them to my room and look at them on my own. I assumed, they had somehow accidentally landed on my bookshelf, but I wasn't about to tell my Mom about it!
      Only years later, did she tell me, that she purposefully planted those books between mine.
      It was a slightly underhanded, yet ingenious way to help me discover things about sex privately, and in my own tempo, which helped me be more open about discussing sex later on.
    • Jun 12 2013: I have led the "parent discussions" by folks who want their kids opted out of programs teaching sex - ed. I have no problem with that. I always shared a couple of basic statements. First, talk with your children about this topic. Second, encourage your child to talk with other trusted adults on this topic. Allow them to get as much good information from people they trust on a serious issue.
  • May 30 2013: Both Why not also give them the old military talk in school? In WWII according to Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask we had to respond to problems in Italy to stay in the War. People have to stay healty to fight.
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    May 29 2013: Thanks for responding