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Should sex ed begin earlier?

Published: Monday, Aug. 11 2014 4:15 a.m. MDT

How early is too early to teach children sex ed?

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To significantly lower the number of teen pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S., focused sex education needs to start as early as fifth grade, according to research out of Georgetown University.

Of the 19,738,800 new STD cases each year, the CDC reported, “young people ages 15-24 account for more than 50 percent of them and, yet, are only 25 percent of the sexually experienced population.”

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most American teens don’t receive formal sexual health instruction, if they receive it at all, until after they’ve already become sexually active.

One of the key arguments against sex education in schools is that “it’s inappropriate and will spur them to become sexually active at an earlier age,” Tara Culp-Ressler wrote for Think Progress. “According to public health experts, there’s a wide range of evidence that kids who received a comprehensive sex education in school are more likely to delay sex.”

A study from Guttmacher Institute found that teen pregnancy and abortion is at a 40-year low, which researchers believe is linked to better sex education.

Guttmacher Institute’s Kathryn Kost told Lois Collins of Deseret News National that she “believes the needle moved because of continuing focus on sex education programs and access to contraceptive services for teens. Teens are more effectively using contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”

Bill Albert, spokesman for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told Collins that he believes “teens are making better choices across a spectrum. ‘I think we adults are simply reluctant to give credit where credit is due. Teenagers themselves are clearly making better decisions.’ ”

“If programs … are implemented at a time when adolescents are still malleable and relatively free of sexual and reproductive health problems and gender role biases, very young adolescents can be guided safely through this life stage, supported by their parents, families and communities,” the researchers wrote.

“Educating a child about human sexuality is as fundamental as teaching a child to walk and talk, to be safe when crossing the street, to respect his or her elders, to know right from wrong,” American Medical News said.

According to DoSomething.org, teens who receive a comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who receive an abstinence-only education.

“Although the content of the education about human sexuality will appropriately reflect the values specific to a given family,” American Medical News said, “the importance of the education is universal."

EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @NicoleEShepard

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