Today's headline in the Heath/Science column of the Boston Globe is Teens show savvy in use of condoms. After surveying 4700 teens (that is a lot of teens) aged 15 -19 the study found that 80% of boys now use condoms up from 55% during their first sexual intercourse. Another interesting finding is that the number of teens having intercourse: 43 % of girls and 42% of boys surveyed is unchanged since this last study in 1988. And if they are having sex, their partner is with someone with whom they "are going steady." I thought that term went out with the 50's.
The good news here is that boys are taking responsibility and have gotten the message that sex is good, but pregnancy and STD's are not, and girls are saying no condom, no sex! In fact one boy quoted said:"I'm not sure how much of this is guys thinking they need to use a condom or girls insisting they use a condom. I'd be hesitant to give guys credit for coming up with this on their own." I love this kid's honesty. So teens are not sleeping around, that's good. And if they are sleeping around they are using a condom. That's good.
What is interesting about this story is that it underscores how long it takes for a message to be incorporated into the culture. When I grew up, all teens smoked cigarettes, that was accepted practice. Then they discovered smoking causes cancer, and slowly the message got out, and it is the rare teen today who smokes cigarettes. Same thing with sex, when I was a teen, no one used condoms. Then as STD's became more common than not, condom use campaigns sprang up everywhere just like the anti-smoking ones, and ten years later this cohort of teens has gotten the message. Change takes time!!! The message, whatever it is has to be repeated loudly and often so that it starts to live in your brain instead of the TV. I think it takes a generation before the message becomes the norm. Take today's teens and this study. They were very young children when the condom ads started on TV. The tv shows they watched about teens starting using the language of condoms as the norm when TV teens were considering having sex. The word condom became part of their everyday language, not a word to be embarrassed about using, or embarrassed about buying. Remember wishing you had a mask on when you had to go to CVS to buy condoms. I don't think today's teens feel that same embarrassment. Its just what you do when you wanna have sex.
So now we have to do the same kind of education when it comes to today's technology. Kid's need the messages loudly and often that too much texting can be harmful to your health. Sending naked pictures and sexy texts can be harmful to your health. Not getting enough sleep because you are waiting to get texts, or sending them late into the night can be harmful to your health. Now is the time to start your own advertising campaign, cause I don't think this one will be launched on your local television station. Start with those 3 rd and 4th graders, so when its their turn to "be teenagers" they will be the generation to say, to each other : "why do you text so much, don't you know it can rot your brain!!!"