Susan Tortelero and Christine Markham are not just researchers. They’re both mom’s. Their study of middle school students found that by age 12 twelve percent of them reported having had sex. Tortelero says those decisions can cause serious problems.
“Children who have sex early are at greater risk for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, but also, these kids tend to have more partners, have more risky behavior than kids who wait until they’re older.”
Christine Markham, the other researcher, says these findings aren’t that surprising considering how sexualized pop culture has become.
“When you think about MTV you think about the music videos, you think about the images on TV and in the movies now. It’s all become a lot more explicit than it was 15 or 20 years ago.”
It’s not just music and TV parents have to worry about these days. Markham says the internet can be a big problem as well.
“It’s really fascinating. About two-thirds of them, sixty-six percent of them, have seen pornography on the internet accidentally or on purpose.”
Robin Burke has a son in the 9th grade. She says her son isn’t sexually active yet but she thinks he may have his first girlfriend.
“I believe I saw them holding hands briefly and he asked her to go to the movies.”
Burke believes educating her son early will help him make good decisions.
“I want to be sure he’s educated with whatever choice he decides to make. And I believe that if we educated him early enough, I believe he’ll make a good choice.”
Markham and Tortelero don’t just do research, they also go into schools and talk with kids about the sexual choices they make. They say education is more than just teaching them about getting pregnant and contracting diseases.
“It’s teaching them how to resist peer pressure; how to say no; how to respect themselves; how to decide what types of choices they want to make in the future in their sexual health. And also how to communicate with their parents about these issues.”
You can find more details about the journal’s research through this portal.
Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.