A middle school curriculum called "Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works" is encouraging young teens to delay sexual activity by offering classroom learning and parental involvement.
Nicole Akoukou Thompson of the Latin Post writes that Planned Parenthood and New York University's Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health recently released the results of a national survey of 1,663 parents and their children. Over 80% of parents and children shared that they had some conversation about sexuality, with most starting when their children were 14 or younger. Some topics, however, were not included in the conversations.
When children have reached the age of 21, 1 in 5 parents have never discussed with their teens strategies for saying no to sex, or birth control methods, or where to go to get accurate sexual health information. More than 30% of parents have never talked with their teens about how and where to get reproductive health care services. These are topics that are very important to discuss with their adolescents.
The "Get Real" material is age-appropriate for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. So far, the "Get Real" information has reached over 150 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas.
The curriculum is built on best practices; is in line with local and national standards; is sensitive to families' values and beliefs; and has been supported by adolescent development experts. Students' cultural backgrounds and social/emotional lives were considered in the writing of the material.
And the program appears to be getting results. Thus far, 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls have had sex as compared to peers who have not taken part in the program.
"Get Real" is one of a few middle school courses that have reduced risky sexual activity for both boys and girls. Even more impressive, the program was tested among teens at high risk to have sexual intercourse.
"Over 90% of parents support having sex education in both middle and high school," said Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "We also know parents can make a real difference in their teens' lives by talking early and talking often about sex. The Get Real findings add to a growing body of evidence that family communication is critical to young people's decision-making and health, and that it's important that communication begins before a teen becomes sexually active and continues throughout adolescence."
Planned Parenthood has attempted to provide a comprehensive approach aimed at children in middle school, and it is working, says Mehak Anwar of Bustle. Instead of using scare tactics and attempting to convince kids that abstinence is the only way to go, "Get Real" offers a fact-based program based on delaying sexual intercourse. Middle-schoolers are provided with the reasons it makes sense to not have sex, especially since young people have a harder time coping with repercussions like STIs and pregnancy.
Research from the Wellesley Centers for Women shows that a comprehensive sex-education program that suggests abstaining for now produces surprising results. Slate's Amanda Marcotte says "Get Real" includes explanations about how to make rational sexual decisions. The process includes understanding that sex also includes relationship issues, levels of self-esteem, and a support network a teen can turn to with questions or worries.
But it may be the "abstinence for now" idea that is the reason for the program's success. Telling a 13-year-old that he or she is going to have to wait to have sex for 10 or 15 years until married is probably too big a request; it labels the teacher a prude who just does not understand and ultimately encourages the kids to disregard everything that has been said up to that point. Waiting until it is easier to decide maturely puts things in a different light.