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Your Teens, Sex, and the STI Epidemic

Your teen doesn't have to be another statistic. Talk to him about sex.
Last Updated
March 22, 2023
posted on
September 22, 2021
5 minutes
Minute Read

As a pediatrician, I have always cared about the sexual health of my teen patients, but one patient in particular woke me up to what is really going on with our teens and sex today.

In the late ‘90s when my daughters were young teens, I saw a 14-year-old patient who had just had part of her cervix removed due to cervical cancer caused by HPV. When I asked her if she knew why she had to undergo this procedure, she said she didn’t. When I asked her about her relationship history, she said she had a boyfriend who was 17 and she believed they would get married one day. She did not know this boyfriend had given her HPV. She was completely in the dark.

This led me to call several excellent OBGYNs I knew. I asked if they were explaining STIs (sexually transmitted infections) to their teen patients. They all said the same thing: no, we don’t have time.

The rise of STIs in teens had completely overwhelmed OBGYNs. If they took the time to explain them to their young patients, they wouldn’t have time for anything else.

This was the turning point for me. Because as I was learning about the rise in STIs among teens, I was also taking my young daughters shopping at the mall where stores were clearly using sex to target young kids by selling sexy clothes and portraying half-nude models in their stores.

We had an epidemic on our hands that was only getting worse.

Today I am a huge advocate for teaching kids about sex and the truth about STIs. According to the Centers for Disease Control…

-More than 68 million Americans have an STI.

-26 million new cases occur every year.

-Young people age 15-24 account for 45% of all infections and yet they make up only 30% of the population. This is serious stuff. Sex is not for kids.

I recently recorded a podcast all about this. I highly recommend you listen to it here for more facts and research.

While these numbers are staggering, they do not equate to a hopeless situation for our teens. There is a way to help prevent your teen from getting an STI, cervical cancer, or something worse. Several behaviors indicate an increased risk of getting an STI:

-having multiple sexual partners

-anal sex

-not using a condom

-starting sex young, under the age of 16

This means there are a number of behaviors that can decrease your child’s risk of getting an STI:

-having only one sexual partner

-using protection

-delaying the sexual debut until adulthood

The question is, how can you ensure your child does these things?

The answer: you.

When you talk to your child about sex, he is far more likely to engage in healthy sexual behaviors, wait longer until having sex, and have fewer sexual partners. Why? Because when you talk to your child about sex, you are telling him you believe in him. You believe he can and will make healthy choices and you care about him enough to ensure he does.

You might be wondering how you can talk to your child about sex, what to say, and how to keep the conversation going (because “the talk” should really be “the talks”). It’s an overwhelming task. That’s why I’ve created something to make it less overwhelming.

My new online course How to Talk to Kids About Sex addresses all of these questions and more. I provide scripts, FAQs, sample scenarios and everything you need to feel equipped to talk to your teen about sex, STIs and their bodies.

You can download the course here.

Talking to your kids about sex is hard. Talking to your kids about sex might be the most important conversation you’ve ever had. Don’t skip it.

Download the course today.

And join my online parenting community Parenting Great Kids where I’m available to answer questions, provide resources and help you become the best parent you can be. Click here to join today.

Dr. Meg Meeker

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello on instagram: @MegMeekerMD or by email:

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