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Should we talk to our 11-year-olds about sex?

25th July 2008

The Times social affairs correspondent Rosemary Bennett urges parents to talk to their children about sex.

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The government says that talking to children as young as 11 about sex could help delay their first sexual experience and lead them to taking fewer risks.

A report highlights 11-14 as the important age – once a teenager reaches 15, parental advice is likely to have little impact, it suggests.

The government report - Everyday Conversations Every Day - will form the basis of a national campaign targeting parents and children in that age bracket saying it is an essential time for them to talk about sex to their children.

Holding that conversation on a regular basis is the key – rather than a one-off facts-of-life chat - and coincides with the findings of the report by Populus which indicated that three quarters of 11-14-year olds want to hear about sex from their parents as opposed from their friends.

Up to a quarter remained confused about sex, primarily because of playground talk and what they had seen on television.

The advice is to bring up the subject informally when triggered by TV or a magazine article.

One parent found the subject of teenage girls getting pregnant in soap operas as a suitable opportunity.

The charity helpline ParentlinePlus is involved in the campaign as the government strives to reduce the problem of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales – the highest in Europe –and rising rates of sexually transmitted disease.

For parents, sex education lessons at school must not be used as an excuse to avoid discussing sex with their 11-14-year olds at home.

 

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