The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement urging adults to make condoms more readily available to young people. Schools in some states have already started providing free condoms to students. Is school really the right place for kids to be able to pick up condoms?
Won't condoms encourage kids to have sex?
There's a common belief that teaching kids about sex and giving them the tools to have safer sex will encourage them to have sex when they may have otherwise abstained. These notions are more rooted in fear of teen sexuality than they are in reality. Advocates for Youth reports that condom availability does not promote sexual activity. In regions where young people have safe, confidential access to condoms, the rates of sexual activity are no higher. Making free condoms available through school health and resource centers doesn't actively encourage students to start having sex.
What if I believe teen sex is wrong?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost half of high school students have had intercourse. Of the teens who'd had sex within the previous three months, nearly 40 percent had not used a condom. Whether you believe teen sex is wrong or not, it's happening. Pregnancy rates are dropping a little, but sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are not. Simply being against teen sex isn't stopping teens from having sex and it's definitely not encouraging them to do it safely and responsibly. As a parent, share your beliefs and values with your teen. Discuss your feelings on abstinence, which is certainly the most effective form of contraception and protection against STIs. Sex education and access to condoms are health tools for young people who are or will become sexually active. And let's face it — a lot of young people are having sex.
Why can't teens just buy condoms?
Condoms aren't cheap or easy to access without transportation. Teens who can't get condoms will probably choose to have sex without them, rather than let safety be the sole deterrent. Tara, a mom in Florida, asked her teen son what he thought about condoms in school. "He said he thought it was a good idea," she says, "that kids would be more likely to ask for condoms from a school nurse than a parent." Caroline, a mom of two boys, is in favor of easy access to condoms. "My friend keeps a boxful under her son's bathroom sink," she says. "It empties, too. But she is convinced that he is a condom 'dealer' for his friends. And she is totally fine with that."
Do teens even know how to use condoms?
Unfortunately, availability does not guarantee that sexually active kids will use condoms consistently or appropriately. On top of that, condoms don't totally, completely prevent sexually transmitted infections. Dani is a mom of five who believes in providing sex education to teens. "Not every parent is a safe haven for a child to talk about sex," she says. Young people need to be able to ask questions about sex and get no-nonsense, medically sound answers. If parents can't provide that for any reason, schools can be a safe haven for teens who are already at risk of STIs and pregnancy. With millions of new STIs occurring in teens each year, we can't afford to ignore the best way to keep sexually active teens safe. Adults have the knowledge and resources to encourage teens to have safe sex. We need to step up to the plate.