Why Pre-Teens and Teens Are at Risk

[Why is Sex More Risky for Teens? ][ Consequences][What Parents Can Do]

Today's statistics are troubling:

  • Half of the teenagers who graduate from secondary school will have already had sex1 . (This percentage is higher for males, minority teens, and teens from lower socioeconomic households.)
  • Two out of ten pre girls ('tweens), and three out of ten pre-teen boys are sexually active.2
  • By age 18, 65-70% of teens are sexually active. (Teenaged girls typically engage in sexual activity to show love-related emotions, while teenaged boys have sex for pleasure.)2
  • In 2002, 32% of Grade 9 males and 28% of grade 9 girls had participated in oral sex. 3

According to the Student Health 2005 Survey: Gauging the Health of Peel Youth:

  • 26% of Peel students in Grades 9 - 12 reported sexual intercourse in the last 12 months; 62% of those students were 15 years or younger when they first had sexual intercourse.
  • The number one reason youth in Grades 9 & 11 did not use condoms is that they "did not expect to have sex".
  • Grade 9 Peel students were the least likely to have ever had sexual intercourse (14%) but most likely to havenot used any birth control or condoms during sex (32%).
  • More than one-third (34%) of the sexually active students surveyed in Peel reported they had three or more sexual partners in their lifetime.

Why is Sex More Risky for Teens?

What places pre-teens and teens at greater risk for the negative consequences of sexual activity?

  • They think that they’re:

    • Infertile - they can't get pregnant or father a child.
    • Immune - they won't get or spread an STI.
    • Immortal - they're going to live forever.

  • Their sexual interest, curiosity and desires are high.
  • They experiment with alcohol and drugs that decrease inhibition and lead to poor judgement.
  • They have few resources for accurate information about sex.
  • They don't like to talk to adults about their sexual activity.
  • It’s common for teens to experiment with more than one sex partner.
  • They are often unprepared to protect themselves in spontaneous sexual encounters.
  • They see and hear media messages so often that they ignore the risk.
  • There are people - often in positions of trust and power - who abuse and exploit children and teens.


Teens who have sex risk a number of negative consequences such as:

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Teenagers are more likely to have sex with multiple partners. This places them at greater risk for contracting STIs. Yet despite the risk, few teens use condoms consistently.

  • Pregnancy

Although teen birthrates have declined in Canada, the risks of serious health consequences remain for babies born to mothers still in their teens. Children of teenagers are more likely to have low birth weights and to suffer health problems.

  • Early Parenting

Although many teenage mothers complete high school, they are less likely than other teenagers to go on to post-secondary education. Teenage parents are also at a higher risk for abusing and neglecting their babies. 5

What Parents Can Do

You can help your pre-teen or teen to abstain from sexual activity by:

  • Staying in contact with your teen and the issues he or she is coping with. Teens who feel they have good communication with their parents are less likely to be sexually active.
  • Be your teen's main source of information about sex. Too many other sources such as friends, magazines and television provide false information, so talk to your teen first.
  • Make conversations about sex as comfortable as possible for your teen. Patronizing him or her won't encourage an open discussion.
  • Make sure your teen understands your values and expectations about friends and dating. Talk with your teen about low-risk dating activities such as flirting, kissing or petting and appropriate ways for interacting with the opposite sex.
  • Help your teen understand that with certain choices come certain consequences. Talk about the results of risky sexual behaviour and why delaying sex is a wise choice.  
  • Find out how peer pressure is affecting your teen. Most teens have sex because they think all their friends are "doing it." Ask your teen what they value and what they think of their peers' choices.

1 Kotchik (2001)
2 Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI, 2001)
5 Help Starts Here
6 Student Health 2005: Gauging the Health of Peel's Youth

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