A study just out from Georgetown University recommends age 10 as the appropriate time to start teaching children about sex.
As reported by Associated Press, researchers say that teaching 10 year-olds sex education will help them avoid "unintended pregnancies. maternal deaths, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections".
The report continues by warning that very young adolescents (VYAs) can be in danger at the time they are about to enter puberty, which in today's world is usually 10-14 years old for average US boys and girls.
"If programs â¦ are implemented at a time when adolescents are still malleable and relatively free of sexual and reproductive health problems and gender role biases, very young adolescents can be guided safely through this life stage, supported by their parents, families and communities," the study's authors wrote.
The authors of the study say that grounding children at this age with the proper education gives teens and pre-teens the coping mechanisms to handle the psychological and physical changes they are experiencing.
It will also give them foundations for healthy relationships in the future and good sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Other researchers said that starting sex ed earlier gives children the time and the self-esteem to make optimal sexual decisions later in their lives.
According to Campus Reform writer Maggie Lit, the study argues that kids can begin experimenting between the ages of 10-14, and are developing sexual and gender-related identities. Unless trained, they may end up taking what could be serious risks. It adds that the only programs out there, at this time, are courses that encourage abstinence-only, or programs that are not tailored to this age group.
Victoria Jennings, the director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown, told the Chicago Tribune:
"The implications are so clear, adolescents in all cultures and every social status are learning at 10, 11, 12 how to match up to gender roles and expectations for them."
In most cases in the US, according to a recent report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many US teens do not receive sexual health instruction until after they are sexually active.
At this time there are no national standards on which to base sexual health education programs. This is true, even though there is research to support the idea that kids who have had comprehensive sex ed in school are more likely to delay having sex, writes Tara Culp-Ressler for ThinkProgress. The study's authors add:
"It will be critical to encourage dialogue with younger adolescents, the significant adults in their lives and local communities â¦ in order to influence positive investments on behalf of this future generation."
Based on research compiled by the National Campaign, US teen pregnancies and birth rates have declined in the last two decades. In fact, the numbers are at a historical low. This is across all racial/ethnic groups and in all 50 states.
Teen pregnancies which resulted in birth or incomplete pregnancies, have also declined. In 2013, of the high school students who were sexually active. 86% reported using contraception the last time they had sex.
The number of high school students who have ever had sex numbered 47%.