Developmentally, the mere presence of peers is a huge influence on adolescent behavior, and compels teens to engage in riskier behavior than they would on their own. Teens don’t even need to be “pressured” into risk taking. This tendency has huge repercussions when we look at teen sexual behavior, which is why our workshops include kids of all genders. We normalize speaking honestly and clearly about sex. With peer group learning, we can tame that overwhelming teen suspicion that everyone else knows more, has done more, and is way cooler.
Kids learn that, in fact, most Los Angeles high schoolers are not having sexual intercourse. Kids learn that consent must be clearly communicated with any sexual behavior. Kids practice graciously taking no for an answer. Without judging others, kids learn that abstaining from sexual intercourse is the safest choice for teens, but we also teach the facts of protecting yourself and your partner in any future encounters.
We teach that parents are the primary educators when it comes to sexuality education—and when parents say nothing at all, that sends a powerful message, too. We support parent involvement. Parents who communicate their values with their kids positively influence teens to make less risky sexual behavior choices. Despite the awkwardness on both sides, we encourage parents and teens to talk honestly about sex, sexuality, and values.
1 Chein, J., Albert, D., O’Brien, L., Uckert, K. and Steinberg, L. (2011), Peers increase adolescent risk taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, 14: F1–F10. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01035.x