Feature Archive

Birds and Bees Updated -- Online Help for Parents and Teens

How to make talking about sex with your children easier.

WebMD Feature

Most parents would agree that sexuality education should begin at home -- but many would be at a loss to know how to start. Never mind how open-minded some parents think they are: Talking about sex with your own teen is not easy.

Fortunately, having that birds-and-bees talk -- and then keeping the lines of communication open -- is made easier by modern media. Both the Internet and television provide solid sexuality-education information to supplement the old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.

Among the web sites offering credible sex education is www.itsyoursexlife.com , launched by MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation -- a nonprofit philanthropy -- in conjunction with a new national survey of public high school students. Those who took the survey said they needed information that could help prevent pregnancy and disease. In the past, MTV has aired its documentary segment called "I Need Sex Rx" as part of its "True Life" series to help educate young people about taking care of their own sexual health. MTV producers encouraged parents to watch the segment with their teenagers to stimulate discussion about sexuality. "True Life" airs regularly on Thursday afternoons. (Check listings for the time slot.)

A Planned Parenthood Federation of America web site, www.teenwire.com , is meant to help parents initiate the sex talk in creative ways. For instance, parents can find common ground by first learning the language teens are currently using to talk about sex.

Another site, www.iwannaknow.org , sponsored by the American Social Health Association, hosts a chat room several times a week. John Butler, chat room moderator, says, "I'm constantly amazed at how much information the young people already have, although they have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction."

Chances to talk about sex come up frequently when teens chat with their parents. Butler takes the time to explore with young people how they've talked to their parents about less intense issues, and how their parents have reacted. He then role-plays with the teens to help them practice. Iwannaknow.org also has an area where parents can get practical information about talking to their teens.

Web sites and television shows won't eliminate the need for face-to-face, heart-to-heart talks. But these supplementary sources of information might just make it a lot easier to get started, and to keep talking.

Originally published Nov. 26, 1999.

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