A Gordon County task force is campaigning for comprehensive sexual education beginning as early as late elementary school. Roberta Charbonneau, coordinator of Family Connections of Gordon County, led a presentation about the aims of the new task force at the monthly Interagency Council Meeting last week.
Charbonneau’s presentation included statistics about the increasingly sexual ways that teens are interacting.
“A study shows that… ‘sexting’ is taking the place of relationships in teens and pre-teens,” she said. “The statistics show that as many as 25 to 30 percent of teens 13 to 19 have engaged in some form of sexting, and that these behaviors are tending younger and younger.”
These behaviors are usually determined by peer and media influence, she said.
“At this stage of development, youths are more vulnerable to pressures from peers and media influence,” said Charbonneau.
“Youths are becoming sexually initiated at younger ages,” she said. “And it can often be attributed to glamorized sex in the media.”
Charbonneau then cited television shows and popular songs that expose teens to sexuality.
Among the shows and songs cited were the CBS show “Two and a Half Men” as well as the CW’s “Gossip Girl”. Charbonneau said these shows depict teens in sexually explicit situations, normalizing risky sexual behavior to their teen audiences.
“Seventy-seven percent of major primetime network shows include sexual content,” she said. “There are roughly five sex scenes per hour of prime time. Ten years ago there were three, so it is getting worse.”
Negative musical influences that Charbonneau cited were rapper Ludacris as well as a party rock group LMFAO.
“The songs of these groups are sexually explicit — and middle schoolers know all of the lyrics because their parents have no idea what their children are listening to,” she said.
Charbonneau said that these media influences increase the need for earlier sexual education.
“If adults aren’t talking frankly to kids about sex, (children) are getting their information from the media and are more likely to practice risky sexual behavior earlier,” she said.
Charbonneau quoted a Princeton survey that showed sexual promiscuity is beginning earlier.
“The survey shows that nearly 3 in 10 (27 percent) of teens from 13 to 16 have been sexually active in some form,” she said.
Charbonneau also cited the health risks of increased sexual activity.
“Oral sex is staring in upper elementary school, as is swapping partners. If we as a society are letting the media inform our children about sex, they’re not going to understand the risks involved,” she said. “In television, teen sex is usually consequence-free.”
“In Gordon County,” she said, “there is a genital herpes problem among teens. Studies show that 50 percent of sexually active teens have Human Papilloma Virus, an STD that can cause cervical cancer in women if it goes untreated.”
The task force is considering the application for a federal grant that would fund the training of instructors to teach sexual education.
“This is about instating effective community strategies to promote age-appropriate sexual behaviors,” she said.
“Studies show that comprehensive sex education does not increase sexual activity… learning these things in a safe environment and teaching children the risks of sexual activity prepares them better than the sexual education they’re getting from the media,” she said.
“Comprehensive sex education has already been instated in Rome city schools, where it is very successful,” she said.
The task force, which includes the United Way, Family Resource Center, the Boys and Girls Club, Family Connection of Gordon County, and the Department of Health, is planning to present the proposal to the Gordon County Board of Education.
“The bottom line here is that the media is in it for the money,” Charbonneau said. “And they’re going all the way to the bank on the innocence of our youths. The community needs adults to inform kids in a safe environment.”