Sex among teens, while at a high level, is declining, says one report. Says another, 1 in 5 teens has sex before the age of 15. Still another report tells us that sexual references on broadcast TV went down in recent years during the so-called family hour, although some might think the jokes, winks, nudges and more remain sufficient in number to cause some families to squirm if they watch.
While there are many competing ideas about what's sexually permissible and what isn't in this diverse nation of ours, not many can think teen pregnancy a good thing or sexually transmitted disease something to ignore or introductions to sex in those earliest teen years as humanly beneficial. Tragedy can reside in the stories behind the statistics.
Encouragement is to be found in many of the reported facts, such as a reduction in teen pregnancies as an apparent consequence of less sexual activity and more use of condoms. The overall picture remains far from inspiring, though, and quoted researchers and common sense suggest parents should talk to the young people about sex, supervise their parties, not allow the youngest teens to date people much older than they are and not allow them to have "one-on-one" dates.
The TV folks — while apparently cleaning up their act on some networks — need to shoulder more responsibility. To suppose their decisions can have no negative impact on teen behavior is to accept three unbelievable propositions: Teens are immune to cultural influences; TV is not important among these influences, and TV shows take great care to avoid a carefree, hedonistic portrayal of sex.
Whether they want it or not, teens need adult help as they deal with questions of sexual behavior — from their parents and from other adults in positions to affect their judgments.