What kind of pressures are teenagers experiencing?
Girls say that they feel that they are expected to have a good reputation, but at the same time are under pressure from boys and from their peers to have sex. If your daughter becomes sexually active as a teenager, it can be more about pleasing their boyfriend than themselves.
Boys say that they feel under pressure from their peer group to appear macho and ready for sex at all times. This can lead to a situation where your son has sex before he is ready for it and may be unprepared or unaware as to how to protect himself.
I find it very difficult to discuss sex with my teenager. They refuse to speak to me if I try to bring it up. What can I do?
During the development of this campaign we asked teenagers to give advice to parents on talking to them about relationships and sex. They said:
- Pick a time when there's no one else around, like in the car, or when there's no-one else at home.
- Don't ask personal questions. It's ok to ask questions about "other people in the class", but not about ourselves or our friends. We'll tell you if we want to.
- Don't talk about your own personal experiences. (boys were more likely to say this, girls sometimes liked hearing these stories from their mothers)
- Just because we ask a question about something, don't assume that it means we are doing stuff we shouldn't be. Sometimes it’s just that people at school are talking about stuff and we don’t want to look stupid and clueless in front of them.
- It’s better if you start talking to us about this stuff when we start getting curious and asking questions.
What can I say to encourage my teenager to wait until they are older before having sex for the first time?
- It's better for your sexual health to wait until you are older. Teenagers who have sex at an early age are more likely to experience crisis pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
- It is against the law to have sex under age 17. It could lead to criminal charges being brought against you.
- It's better for your emotional health to wait until you are older and in a secure relationship. Teenagers who had sex under age 17 are more likely to say later that they regretted it.
- Having sex for the first time is a major step in life; something you will always remember. It's worth waiting for the right time and the right person.
- Having sex does not prove anything. It does not prove that you are attractive or popular.
- If someone really likes you, they will want you to be sure that you are ready before having sex for the first time and will not mind waiting until you are older.
- If you do have sex, it’s important to use contraception, but even if you do, you may worry about you/ your girlfriend being pregnant or having an STI from time to time. Do you want this worry in your life?
What can I do if I am concerned that my teenager is sexually active?
The best thing to do is try to talk to them, though they may not be interested in listening. Show them this site and ensure that they are aware that they need to use contraception to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs. If your teenager and their girlfriend/boyfriend are under 17, ensure that they are aware that they are breaking the law. Reassure the child that you are concerned because you love them and it is your responsibility to look after them and protect them.
My son/daughter is in a steady relationship and has asked if his/her boy/girlfriend can stay over for a night. Is that o.k.?
That is up to you. It is your home and your rules. However, remember it is illegal for sexual activity under 17 years.
I think my child is gay/lesbian, is there anywhere I can go for advice and support?
This organisation supports parents who have lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender children: www.lovingouroutkids.org
Is it common for teenagers to look at pornography on the internet?
In an Irish survey of 863 children aged between 9 and 16 years, about 33% of children reported visiting pornographic websites accidentally and 20% have visited these websites on purpose. Of those children who saw a pornographic website, 33% ignored it; 45% told their friends about it and less than 10% told their mother or father about it. If you are concerned about your child looking at pornographic material, you can install a net nanny, ensure the computer is in a family room and supervise them while they are on the internet.
Should I be concerned if my teenager looks at pornography?
There is very little research into the effects of pornography on teenagers. However, when boys are asked about their sex education they say that they would like more information on the mechanics of sex. Anecdotal research would suggest that boys look at porn to find out about how sex works. This could potentially give boys an incorrect sense of what sex "should" be like. It could also lead to them to expect girls in their peer group to behave in a similiar manner to a girl in a pornography film.
What advice can I give my child to help them stay safe when on the Internet?
- Tell your child to keep their password secret and to change it every so often
- Advise your son/daughter to keep their friendship groups to only the people they know 100 per cent – not just someone who seems friendly but they have not met.
- Encourage your son/daughter to lock their profile so others can’t mess with it and advise them to not mess with other peoples profiles.
- Advise them not to give away online who they are and where they are at the same time. Let them know that sometimes online relationships go wrong and in those cases if they haven't revealed all their personal details they will be the one in charge.
- Let your child know that teachers, colleges and even future employers may check social networking sites to see what they have been up to.
- Advise your child to only put up posts, photos and comments that won’t embarrass or humiliate them or their friends. Encourage them to think twice before they upload anything.
- Let your son/daughter know that even if they delete something that they regret doing earlier, someone may already have saved it elsewhere. Ask your son/daughter to right-click on any picture on the Internet and choose "Save Picture As"... to see how easy it is. Let him/her know that what they put up on the Internet is there forever.
- Advise your son/daughter not to let someone coax them into doing or saying something online that they feel uncomfortable about. Encourage your child to report any problems or cyber bullies to site monitors.