When teens engage in sexual activities, they open a Pandora’s box of hidden dangers, unsuspected difficulties and sometimes life-threatening consequences they lack the maturity and knowledge to handle.
But even so, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60% of our nation’s youth have had sexual intercourse by the time they graduate from high school.
Teenagers who choose to be sexually active risk exposure to more than 20 sexually transmitted infections. Currently, young people between the age of 15 and 24 contract about half of the 26 million new cases of STIs each year.
The most common STIs among girls are human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes and gonorrhea. Forty percent of sexually active girls in our society age 14–19 have at least one STI.
Herpes and HPV are infections easily transmitted even when protection is used. Gonorrhea is considered an urgent threat to teens as it is now showing resistance to the last line of antibiotics used to treat it.
According to the CDC, only about 20% of sexually active high school students said they were tested for an STI in the past year.
Studies show the most reliable way for today’s teens to avoid transmission of STIs is to abstain from sex and live in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. In Genesis 1:27–28, Scripture teaches that God created male and female and that sexual intimacy is an important and beautiful part of marriage.
While the teen pregnancy rate has been steadily declining in recent years, 89 percent of all babies born to teens are born to unmarried parents. A sexually active teen who doesn’t use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year, according to Not Just for Girls: The Roles of Boys and Men in Teen Pregnancy.
Unmarried teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, face unemployment and live a life in poverty.
The CDC states teen pregnancy and childbirth cost taxpayers in the U.S. about $9.4 billion annually.
Recent studies show sexual activity may cause depression in early adolescents, as well as other problems, including high-risk behaviors, dating violence and — for males — cannabis abuse.
The emotional and psychological dimension of sexual intimacy has powerful emotional consequences, potentially harming one’s personality and character as well as affecting one’s self-esteem and self-respect. Within the context of marriage, however, sex can foster a sense of shared emotional intimacy.
What factors increase a young person’s susceptibility to early sexual activity?
- Society can contribute — graphic sex is often found in programming or used to sell products. Children are constantly exposed to sexually explicit television shows, movies and widely available Internet pornography. This can speed up sexual activity, according to the Rand Corporation.
- Alcohol and drugs also can play a part in encouraging early sexual activity as they can lower a young person’s inhibitions and alter his or her mind.
- Teens often fall victim to peer pressure too, especially those with low self-esteem or bad relationships with parents. They may experiment with sex in order to fit in with their friends.
- Children living in high poverty, unsafe communities and violent and abusive homes are also at high risk to engage in adolescence sex.
Addressing the issue
How can churches address the issue? Here are some suggestions:
- Pray for the teens in your church and for their parents. Raising a teenager these days takes a double effort of strength, family stability and scriptural wisdom.
- From the pulpit, preach sermons on God’s plan for sexual intimacy within a healthy marriage.
- Support parents and families who try to teach their youth to abstain from sex until marriage. Provide literature and resources to help them achieve this goal.
- Teach your children and young people the definition of love as a commitment within the marriage relationship. Help them to understand the beauty of sexual intimacy within a marriage. Explain to them the risks and dangers of having early sex outside of marriage.
- Bring in community speakers, agency leaders and others who can answer your young people’s questions about sex, as well as professionals who can openly and honestly address the reasons to avoid and/or discontinue early sexual activity and promiscuity.
- Provide counseling for couples who have marital problems and difficult relationships, seeking to help and heal the atmosphere in unhealthy homes where children and teens reside.
- Talk with your youth about resisting peer pressure from their friends and others. Create a sense of family, community and belonging within the church.
- Teach church parents how to express love for their children and teens, strive for a greater sense of family closeness, spend more time together and demonstrate positive adult role models.
- Advise church parents to know their young person’s friends, where they spend their time, what activities they enjoy and the adults who influence them.
- Find out what type of sex education is taught in your community’s schools. Encourage church parents to get involved in parent-teacher organizations.
- For parents who struggle to talk with their youth about sex, provide them with Christian books and articles that will help. One good source to guide parents in talking with their teens about sex can be found at https://bright-pediatrics.com/Talking-With-Your-Teen-About-Sex.
- Help your church’s young people to understand sex is safest and brings the most joy when it takes place inside a committed marriage.
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