Teenagers in the U.S. are less sexually active than they were in previous generations.
The Centers for Disease Control asked about 2,000 high schoolers about their close encounters; they found that less than half of them are having sex. In the 80s, about 60 percent of boys and 51 percent of girls reported being sexually active.
The survey also revealed that sexually active teens are more likely to use protection than ever before. Teen births have dropped nearly 60 percent over the past three decades.
Ahna Suleiman is the coordinating director at the Center on the Developing Adolescent at UC Berkeley, and she tells Take Two the numbers don’t surprise her.
“There’s a lot more access now through the media. Young people can access sexual health information on their smartphones ... While it seems a little counterintuitive, having more information [gives] them the resources to make informed sexual decisions and delay sex until they’re ready.”
She says the once popular ‘just say no’ method proved to be largely ineffective with young adults.
“I think that we have really clear evidence now that ‘just say no’ is not an effective message for young people.“
In fact, she says, young people who were only taught that message are more likely to make risky sexual decisions.
Though sexual education has come a long way in the past three decades, Suleiman says America still waits too long to teach kids about the birds and bees.
“If you look at us globally, we have some of the worse sexual outcomes, compared to other developed countries,” she explains.
Going forward, Suleiman hopes fewer parents and educators will rely on scare tactics to keep teens abstinent. If this happens, she says these numbers could drop even further.
“And the goal isn’t to scare them; it’s to provide them with enough information so that they feel powerful and informed, and make a choice that’s right for them.”
Press the play button above to hear more from Ahna Suleiman at the Center on the Developing Adolescent at UC Berkeley.