It reads like a horror movie for parents. Fourteen-year-old girls posting sexy pictures of themselves on Facebook to see how their boyfriends will respond. Warnings that teens Googling "sex ed" are finding pictures of naked women covered in candy.
And then the story in New York Magazine meant to make all parents dive for the baseball bat to smash their teen's laptop flat offers up the money shot, so to speak. It's a warning from a teen's own mouth that they're not sitting down for the birds and bees talk with mom and dad anymore:
You can learn a lot of things about sex. You don’t have to use, like, your parents sitting down with you and telling you. The Internet’s where kids learn it from, most of the time.
The way it's written, being born before the dawn of the Internet is the modern day equivalent of being born yesterday. Fortunately, my birth certificate still reflects I'm old enough to be a parent. I'm not buying it. Sex on the Internet has its drawbacks, but it's got a whole lot of good for our kids.
Horrified? Think for a moment where you learned about sex. Was it from your parents "sitting down with you and telling you," the eye-roll inducing old fogey way the 16-year-old in NY Mag refers to? Maybe, but more likely it was on the playground. Or on the school bus. Or behind the bleachers in the high school gym.
Long before the Internet, teens were ignoring their parents. Long before the Internet, kids were picking up sex tips from people who knew absolutely nothing about it. And in those days, there was no way to confirm or deny the reports. Of course you could get pregnant by french-kissing, Susie Q down the block knows a girl it happened to, and she wouldn't lie, would she? And everyone knows that if you pee RIGHT after you have sex, you can't get pregnant. At least that's what Janie's boyfriend said, and he hasn't knocked up a girl yet, right?
Before the Internet, we took as fact all that high school gossip. What were we supposed to do, ask our parents? And then came Google. And the ability to find naked women covered in Skittles, yes, but also to find out real answers about real problems. Want to know about sex? Check out MTV.com. Want to know about birth control? Try Planned Parenthood online. Kids are arming themselves with information in a way that our generation couldn't because we were hampered by a lack of access and a fear of the divulging information to the one person with that information.
In fact, investigative journalists have found little evidence to support the notion that kids are using the Internet to support a growing porn habit. On the other hand, recent surveys show some 75 percent of teens use the Internet to search for health information. They can disprove the theory that peeing gets rid of pregnancy with the stroke of a few keys. They can protect themselves from HIV and herpes, or they can find other teens who are happy being abstinent and willing to provide a support network that shelters them from the pain of being the only virgin in high school.
Teens today are no different from teens of 20, 30, even 40 years ago. They have burgeoning sexualities, and their comfort levels with their parents are changing as they charge toward the age of independence. But unlike the teens of yesteryear, today's kids have sex on the Internet. Thank goodness for that.
Do you wish you'd had this option when you were a kid?
Image via kodomut/Flickr