Page last updated at 01:21 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 02:21 UK

Teens want to talk more about sex

boy walking
Few fathers talk to their sons about sex, the poll suggests

Parents are missing out on vital conversations with their children about sex because of embarrassment, a report for the government says.

A study by author and agony aunt Anita Naik found three-quarters of 11-to- 14-year-olds wished it was easier to talk to their parents about sex.

And a poll found that 44% of young people did not trust the information they received from friends.

Most felt talking would not encourage them to have sex, as many parents fear.

More than half of parents (55%) held back from talking about sex, the survey suggests, because of embarrassment about how to start.

Fathers were much less likely than mothers to get involved in conversations with their sons about sex.

Having everyday conversations as often as possible about sex and relationships is proven to reduce risky behaviour
Anita Naik, report author

Just over one in 10 fathers said they would talk to their sons about sex, while even fewer - just 6% - said they would talk to their sons about relationships.

Among the mothers questioned, 66% said they would talk to their sons about sex and 65% said they would talk to them about relationships.

A quarter of teenagers questioned said they felt confused, worried and scared that they did not have the right information.

The research was commissioned as part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Everyday Conversations Every Day campaign, to encourage parents to talk to their children about subjects such as sex.

Teenage pregnancies

The study found that the optimum age for talking to children was between the ages of 11 and 14.

By the time a youngster reached 15, the divide between the child and parent was too great and could make conversations impossible to start, said Anita Naik.

"Teenagers unanimously agree that parents who speak to them about sex are in no way encouraging them to go out and do it," she said.

"In fact the opposite is true - having everyday conversations as often as possible about sex and relationships is proven to reduce risky behaviour and can help young people make measured decisions about sex and stay safe."

Ms Naik said she believed that such conversations could help reduce the number of teenage pregnancies.

She said: "Teenage pregnancy is due to many factors. Many youngsters don't have the right information. I'm not talking about the mechanics of sex, but many don't have the language to say no to sex or to delay it until they are ready and with someone they trust.

Teenagers and their parents give their views on talking about sex and relationships.

"By starting up conversations parents can encourage them to make their own decisions, and stand by them and stand up to the friends or peers if pressure is put on them."

The poll for the study was carried out online by Populus among 580 children aged from 11 to 14 and 535 adults with children in that age group.

The report gives tips for parents on how to make conversations about sex easier, including:

  • Use TV shows, magazines, newspapers as starting points
  • Find out what education children are getting at school about sex and relationships
  • Don't be afraid of saying "I don't know" and take the opportunity to research something together
  • Respect your teenager's thoughts and opinions even though they might be different from yours
  • Treat boys and girls equally
  • If they say something you find shocking, stay calm and question them further to find out how much they really know

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