Copyright © 1999 News World
Published in Washingtion, D.C. ~ October 14, 1999
Teens Want Parents To Offer More Guidance
By Rebecca Wyatt
Teen-agers want their parents to be more involved in their lives so they can make wise decisions about sex, drugs and alcohol, a study released yesterday shows.
Teens "recognize how complex the world is and that it is becoming ever more complex as they get older," said Shepherd Smith, president of the Institute for Youth Development, a nonprofit organization that promotes risk avoidance for youth. "They want their parents' guidance and need them to be a larger part of their world."
The study, conducted to discover why prevention programs for teen-agers are not working, found evidence that sex education actually encourages teens to explore sexual activity.
Teen-agers said the programs made them feel like sex was an expected and ordinary practice for young people.
"When people talk about sex and stuff, it makes you feel like you should go out there and do it," one boy said. "It makes it seem like you're supposed to be doing it."
The study involved 429 teen-agers, ages 11 to 14, and was conducted from September 1997 to November 1998. The groups involved youth, both male and female, of various races, geographic areas and economic situations.
It divided the teens into "youth at risk" -- teens with divorced parents, discipline problems at school or living in poverty -- and "youths not at risk" -- youth involved in activities like church, 4-H Club and Boy Scouts.
"We also wanted to learn what both at-risk and not-at-risk young people thought about these issues, since so much research in this area focuses only on that minority of teens who are in trouble," Mr. Smith said.
The study used 51 informal discussion groups, in which eight or nine teens discussed issues concerning alcohol, sex, drugs, tobacco and violence.
Many of the findings dealt with the reasons why young people make good or bad decisions. They cited reasons like peer pressure, lack of parental involvement and prevention programs failing to work.
Teens think that if their parents listened more and taught them morals, the teens could make better decisions, the study reported.
"Parents should be role models for their kids so their kids will know what to do," one girl in the study said.
One boy said he wanted more time with his father.
"I almost never eat with my parents," he said. "You know why? My dad is always working. Always. My dad is either at work or on the Internet."
Some of the teens complained that sex-prevention programs are too focused on condoms and birth control, and not focused enough on abstinence.
"More and more it's focused on moderation and how to protect yourself or deal with precautions," one boy said. "But they need to start focusing more on not doing it at all."
Monica Rodriguez, director of information and education for Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, had not heard about the study, but said she disagrees that sex education in schools is ineffective.
"It can answer a lot of young people's questions and give them information to make good decisions," she said. But Miss Rodriguez added, "Parents need to talk to their own children."
Besides including teen-agers' views, the study gave recommendations to help with the problems young people mentioned.
Parents should instill values into their children through both word and action, the study recommended.
"Setting limits works best when youth know this is being done because the adult loves them and cares about what is in their best interest," the study said.
Youth want their parents to spend time doing basic activities with them, like eating together, biking or hiking, the study said.
Teens "wanted time with their parents in recreation rather than work, and time that involved conversation rather than lecture," the study reported.
Copyright © 1999 News World Communications, Inc.
15 oct 1999