Growing up has never been easy. But in today’s culture young people have more challenges to face than ever before, especially in the area of sexuality. The basic issues may be no different, but the speed of life and the multiple pressures teens face make the risks even greater.

A few sobering statistics: according to the Centers for Disease Control and, 48% of high-school students report having had sexual intercourse. One in four teens contracts a sexually-transmitted infection every year. One-third of young women have been pregnant by the time they are age 20, and 80% of those pregnancies are unplanned. The long-term costs of these realities are very high, in terms of higher rates of infertility and poverty, not to mention the emotional costs.

A week ago the Food and Drug Administration made the decision to approve Plan B – the so-called morning after pill – for sale over-the-counter to anyone age 15 or over. Some women’s groups howl that even this minimal restriction is infringement on women’s rights, and is inconsistent with good medical science. Other groups are just as angry that such medications can be made easily available to teens who need parental consent for just about anything else.

Here’s what I believe:

  • The only safe sex is between a man and a woman in marriage. The risks involved with any other sexual activity are especially high for teens. The risks of pregnancy and of STDs can be lessened by using contraception and condoms, but they are not eliminated. And even more important, the risks for emotional heartbreak and long-term spiritual trauma are too big to ignore.
  • The primary responsibility for sex education resides in the home. Decisions young people make about sexuality will affect them for the rest of their lives. And those decisions are made out of the values, beliefs, and spiritual integrity in a young person’s heart. Parents must pray for wisdom, and work intentionally to develop the internal strength in their children long before they are ever pressured to become sexually active. Parents must create a safe place at home where teens can talk about these issues before – and after – facing situations involving sex.
  • Beyond the home, it is also important to remain vigilant to the media messages, educational and government policy, and peer pressure our children are exposed to. Our children’s future is too important to let anyone “out there” have first place in shaping their lives.

And finally, for those young people – or much older people – who have already become caught up in risky sexuality, or experienced some of the negative fallout, we offer a hand of hope. You have a future! God says so, and we agree.

Your Turn: If you’re the parent of a teen, how are you talking with them about sexuality? Do you have any regrets about your own growing up? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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