As a Mother of a young girl my concern has begun to grow about her safety and mental health for her future in regards to relationships and sex. With the attention in the media on how girls are being treated by their peers and own self beliefs from the social media machines surrounding sex I wanted to get advice from one of my clients Rowena Murray author of "For Foxes Sake".
"As teenagers, most of us dreaded having ‘the sex talk’ with a parent, and often it didn’t happen at all. Sometimes schools handled it, or not. The availability of solid, accurate sex education has improved in some areas, and t’s actually gotten worse in others. In addition, it’s often been focussed on biology and reproduction rather than pleasure, so there has been shame and stigma attached to sex, especially for young women. Now there are new factors that are having a huge impact on teens; cyber bullying, sexting, social media and the sheer volume of easily accessible porn out there.
If it was tricky for us growing up, you can safely say it’s turning into a minefield for today’s teenagers. Talking sex with teenagers can be a challenging thing for parents to tackle, so here are a few tips to make your way around ‘the talk’ in the Snapchat era.
1/. Lots of little talks
Education about our bodies, reproduction, sex, pleasure, self-confidence and more needs to happen throughout childhood and the teenage years, ensuring it’s age-appropriate and at a level they understand. This means that parents need to be talking about sex and body ed often instead of having one ‘big talk’ at age fifteen.
Lots of little talks mean that trust is established, lines of communication are open, the education has been relevant and age-appropriate, and they have confidence in coming to you with questions and issues. If this hasn’t occurred or been left to the school to deal with, a big line of communication has not been established and your teen will go elsewhere for information. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, or consider you their parent, or any of those things. But it’s much more likely that they simply don’t see you in that context.
2/. Accept that they will get information elsewhere
The teenage years are when young people start to assert their privacy, and start to really learn for themselves. Instead of trying to insert yourself into big awkward conversations they might not want to have, insert some really handy resources that they can get into in their own time. My website has a great list of books and online resources and I recommend you pass this list on, or buy a few and leave them with your teen. You are ensuring that they have properly researched, sex positive and relevant materials in their hands, to tackle at their own pace.
3/. Blocking & banning is not a sex-ed strategy
The Australian Federal Government recently made moves to block Pirate Bay, a torrenting site. This block was bypassed within minutes with simple instructions posted online for all of Australia to see (not to mention it was still available via the Parliament House free WiFi for quite some days after the block when through). Blocking internet access, sites and content via the ‘net nanny’ approach simply doesn’t work. Most teens are viewing porn on smartphones and tablets, and doing it very frequently at friends’ houses. Many also have ‘sock puppet’ social media accounts. Teens are digital natives, and no matter how educated you, as a parent, are on all things digital, most teens will out-hack you any day.
Instead, having a focus on open communication, teaching them self-respect, instilling confidence and self esteem, and letting them know they can come to you with fear of reprisals is key. By all means, use commonsense around your house rules (e.g. mobile phones are switched off at bed time so they’re not up until 3am glued to a screen). Accept that there will be a certain amount of private activity happening, and make sure they’ve got someone to talk to - you - when they’re confronted with something along the way.