“The Talk.” We all know what we’re talking about, and parents and teens often fear the conversation alike. The sex talk. The time when you formally sit your teen down and talk about safe sex, consent, self-respect, relationships, and growing up.
The idea can cause anxiety in parents and teens. After all, discussing such an intimate topic with a family member can be overwhelming. Sometimes, even as adults, we don’t feel fully comfortable talking sex with our friends, or even our partners.
In today’s society, though, sex is everywhere, and young adults are exposed to more mature ideas earlier and earlier than ever before. While this trend has been creeping up for decades, technology has made it more and more difficult to keep our children and teens sheltered from the sexuality that permeates society.
Adding to this is the fact that a recent study showed that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% of them are deemed to be online “almost constantly,” meaning that teenagers have instant access to virtually any information that’s out there.
Technology and “The Talk”
How do these statistics relate to “the talk”? Teens, just like adults, are often embarrassed to ask intimate questions relating to sex- especially to their parents. With the increased accessibility of technology, now they don’t necessarily have to.
Questions like “What is sex?” and “How do you know if you’re ready to have sex?” can be easily Googled, and a wide array of advice, answers, and information will pop up at your teens’ fingertips.
The question of whether this is a positive or negative thing is complex. On the one hand, increased access to knowledge and information is typically a great thing. On the other, when it comes to something as serious as sexual health and intimacy, we want to be sure our teens are getting accurate and trustworthy information.
While the nitty-gritty, down and dirty questions that a teen may ask online might save you from turning bright red in the face on the drive home from soccer practice, you should open the door for dialogue with your teen.
Let them know that if they ever read anything online that they have questions about, or if they aren’t sure if something is true, to come to you. Make sure that they know you’re just as available to them as the internet is when it comes to asking questions about sex.
Opening an On-Going Dialogue vs. Having “The Talk”
One shift that we’ve seen in recent years is that the topic of sexuality is so heavily covered in the news and mainstream media, that young adults are growing up accustomed to the idea of openly discussing sex, even with their parents.
This is a great thing. Instead of dreading that awkward moment when you have to ask your teen to “come to sit down,” many families are finding themselves more open to discussing sexual health and questions in everyday situations, as part of normal conversations. Part of the embarrassment, fear, and dread has been taken out of it, and you may find yourself never having to have an official “talk” at all.
The key to this is maintaining an on-going open dialogue with your teen. Discussing birth control options, the definition of consent and sexual orientation can be made easier by the constant stream of news popping up on your teen’s smartphone. Now you can say, “Hey, did you read that article today about…” for a more natural conversation.
Again, continue letting your teen know that you’re there for them, even if it seems like they don’t want to hear it. If you continue having open conversations, your teen will be more likely to approach you when they do have a question or concern.
“The Talk” May Be Obsolete
While “the talk” itself may be becoming obsolete, a new style of “talk” is developing. The one that is open, honest, and involves frequent conversations about sexual health and relationships with your teen shouldn’t die out. If you opt not to have the official “talk” with your teen, it’s important to find other, more continuous ways to discuss sex from a parental standpoint. It’s been shown that when parents have these types of open dialogues that teens have healthier sexual habits.
This same study, conducted by the CDC, shows that a national survey determined that teens stated their parents were the most influential aspect of their lives when it came to their ideas about sex. More than the internet, more than television, and even more than their friends. It also said that how often things are discussed with a parent has a significant impact on a teen’s sexual behavior.
The internet and technology can replace a lot of things, but it can never replace the unique and personal relationship a parent has with their child.