Talk to your teen about condoms, docs say

Schools, communities, and parents can play a role in improving the use of condoms and increased availability of condoms among sexually active teens, encourages the American Academy of Pediatrics in its recently released updated policy statement on condom use

Abstaining from sexual intercourse should be encouraged for adolescents as the most effective way to prevent sexually transmitted infections or STIs and unintended pregnancy. At the same time, doctors should support consistent and correct use of condoms, and encourage parents to discuss condom use and prevention of STIs with their adolescent children. More awareness is needed among parents that making condoms available to adolescents does not increase the onset or frequency of adolescent sexual activity, according to the AAP statement.

Why should I talk to my teen about condoms? Studies have found parental communication about sexual risk and condom use are associated with increases in adolescents’ use of condoms. The AAP policy statement notes that the timing of the discussion is important. In one study, the highest rates of condom use at first and last sex, as well as for regular use, were found among adolescent girls who communicated with their mothers about condom use before onset of sexual activity compared with after initiation.

How likely is it that my teen has had sex? The Center of Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevent reports sexual risk behaviors in a nationally representative sample of high school students surveyed biannually. In the most recently available YRBS from 2011:

  • 47.4% of high school students reported that they had ever had sexual intercourse
  • 33.7% reported that they were currently sexually active
  • 15.3% had had sexual intercourse with four or more partners in their lifetime

Are teens using condoms? Among sexually active students, 60.2% reported condom use during their last sexual encounter. Of additional concern, by 12th grade, nearly two-thirds (63.1%) of students reported ever being sexually active but reported lower use of condoms than did sexually active 9th-and 10th-graders, found the CDC.

What’s the concern? Recent data suggests levels of sexual activity among teens has gone down, but the current rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies is still a major concern. In 2011, approximately 330,000 teens gave birth and data from 2008 suggests that about 750,000 teens become pregnant each year.

Rates of STIs remain highest among adolescents and young adults, with estimates suggesting that 15- to 24-year-olds, who represent 25% of the sexually experienced population, acquire nearly half of all new STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Increasing evidence shows that proper condom usage can prevent the many STIs, including HIV, and pregnancy.

Where do I start? The AAP offers information on how to talk to teens about consistent condom usage and how to help a teen respond to a partner who doesn’t want to use a condom.  KidsHealth has an overview on condoms and talking to your teen about them.

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