My 10-year-old Jack said “Bookflix” on the Apple TV remote using voice search, but results for “f–kflicks” were displayed for YouTube. My 6-year-old Juno and I were there. Jack and I had a good laugh as he quickly clicked back. Juno was confused, but it just goes to show how pervasive porn can be.
But it’s not just porn, it’s sexuality in general. My son has asked me what “MILF” means (song title in a video game he played), what a pervert is (someone was called one in their chat), and while it can be weird, I’m glad he still asks me when he could just Google.
According to a Save the Children Philippines 2017 study, 10- to 14-year-olds chose to know about sexuality and reproductive health from their mothers.
“By the time your children are in their teens, their friends and the internet will be their primary sex educators, hugely influential, so you need to get the ball rolling before that happens,” advised childhood sexuality expert Amy Lang, MA, in a webinar for AFineParent.com.
Lang advocates for parent-led sex education, so that whatever our values are will be passed on as well. The idea is to prepare them for this important part of life. Lang said that parents used to think more of prevention, but she emphasized that preparing them is more important.
Parents help kids work on their physical, social and spiritual lives, but tend to skip on their sexual development.
“We prep them for Trigonometry, which they won’t use for long, but they will have their sexuality throughout their lives. They have a right to know and be confident with their bodies, to experience ‘pleasure and trust, responsibility and joy,’ as author Peggy Orenstein said. Most of us didn’t get that.”
When do we start?
When they ask, they’re ready to know.
What if they never ask? Lang said that by fifth grade, they should know. It’s the level sex ed is taught in the United States, where sex is usually happening by high school. She disclosed that penis-and-vagina sex in the US usually happens at 17, with kids having done something sexual by the time they’re 19.
The Philippines’ Population Commission projects a 21-percent increase in pregnancies among 10- to 19-year-olds in 2021, so expect comprehensive sexuality education to be part of online learning modules this school year.
The Netherlands has comprehensive sexuality education from kindergarten and all the way through. It also has the lowest teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted-disease rates among developed countries. They have a very open culture about sexuality and see it as a positive part of life. Families are naked together from birth until death, have no hangups with sexuality and have easy access to medical care.
According to Lang, the magic age to begin sex ed is 5. While it can be sooner, by this age they should know how babies are made. At 5, they’re super open, curious and usually start kinder at this age so there’s opportunity to get info from sources other than parents.
“Nothing is embarrassing at this age,” she assured. “Your child won’t notice your nervousness when talking about the birds and the bees. Your 12-year-old will, so admit you’re uncomfortable, but that you want them to have this information because maybe you didn’t have it at their age. Say, ‘We may be uncomfortable, but this is such an important part of life, you really need to be ready and prepared for it.’”
Normalize proper sex talk by using the correct names for private body parts because kids have the right to know. Discuss body boundaries so they can stay safe from sexual predators.
What information is age appropriate?
Lang set out a timeline:
By 5, they should know that a penis goes into a vagina. This is how they came to be. Say it feels good to grownup bodies, but it’s not for kids. At this age, it’s just science. Continue talking about body safety.
By 8, they should know about puberty, and that their body’s going to change from a kid body to a grownup body.
By 9, they should have a reference that shows what’s going to happen to their body, so girls know that they will bleed monthly and it won’t be scary.
Kids could begin having crushes. “Explain birth control if you are so inclined, even if you’ve already said that sex feels good for grownups. You want to plant seeds for when they’re ready for romantic relationships and keep building on those conversations,” she said.
By the time they’re 10-11, they need to know the basics of everything because of how sexualized media is and how exposed kids are to inappropriate things on the internet. Share your values about sex, oral sex, anal sex, date rape, abuse, so they know it in real life, what healthy relationships mean, find opportunities to show in media what’s good or not.
“If you’re scared that if you tell them these things, they’ll go out and do it, the reality is they’re gonna go out and do it no matter what information they have, so you might as well prepare them with everything because it’s safer for them,” advised Lang.
Children who are clueless about healthy sexuality will normalize what they see online. They might trust bad sources or believe information not aligned with your values. Parents are the solution to making sure kids get a positive understanding and information about sex and healthy relationships.
The Birds & Bees Solutions Center, tinyurl.com/BeesFine
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