Essay about Adolescents in the United States
Adolescents in the United States have an easily accessible multitude of types of mass media including television, music, movies, and the internet, particularly social media sites. The majority of these adolescents tend to utilize their time online focusing on social media rather than the education they obtain in school or from their parents. The articles reviewed discuss the effects of sex education and the media on teen pregnancy as well as adolescents being sexually active (Manduley, A., Mertens). It also discusses different ways that being sexually active are taught in the education system and how the different types of media effect and influence adolescents in their day-to-day lives.
The media may exaggerate and positively portray teenage pregnancy. It plays a significate role in sex education because television shows are giving young women fame for being teenage mothers and they are being paid to be a part of this. Negative sexual health messages are publicized because the girls on these shows are asked if they were trying to be safe by using contraceptive and they explain that they were not doing anything to engage in protected sex (Manduley, A., Mertens). Teenage pregnancy may be linked with the nature of sex education and the media. This is a significant issue because adolescent women do not comprehend the cost of pregnancy and raising a child. They do not consider the cost of hospital bills, clothes, food, diapers, and doctor appointments. More than half of all teenagers who have a baby will not graduate high school.
There is no federal order to teach sex education in public schools and less than half of all public schools in this country offer information on how to attain birth control. Part of it is also because society has not come to the realization that adolescents are sexually active. This type of attitude may endanger many young teens that could possibly become pregnant and or be at risk for contracting STDs.
The article, “Impacts of Abstinence Education on Teen Sexual Activity, Risk of Pregnancy, and Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases” by Dr. Christopher Trenholm discusses how economics is a significant part of how much money sexual education is allotted for public schools, but also how funds are used to determine what kind of education children will receive. Dr. Trenholm has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Government from the College of William and Mary and a PhD in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, Dr. Trenholm works as a senior economist and associate director for health research at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (NASHP.ORG).
The article begins with facts and figures of how much federal funding is used towards sexual education. Trenholm states that abstinence only programs have grown rapidly over the last few years, gaining financial support and being forcefully matched by states at seventy-five percent. States receiving funds upwards of fifty million dollars will then be combined with state matched funding resulting in eighty-seven and a half million dollars to teach abstinence only to prevent against unwanted teen pregnancy and unwanted STD transmission (Trenholm et al. 255). Former President George W. Bush spent $135 million to encourage adolescents to “abstain from sex as their only form of birth control”. These types of programs often restrict student’s access to information on sexuality and contraception. These types of programs also often exclude a lot of basic information like puberty and sexual reproduction and contain little to no information about pregnancy and disease prevention other than abstinence (Trenholm). The article compares and contrasts four different sexual education programs with an emphasis on abstinence. This is just a sampling of different federally and state funded programs that are being offered in public schools around the nation to children of different races, ages, and financial backgrounds (Trenholm et al. 255-277).
Economics is specifically relevant to teen sexuality and sexual education in schools because it is the basis of how we develop within society and how we behave as a part of it. The internet and social media platforms have negative health consequence due to a false belief of privacy. This leads to more provocative behavior and discussion around drinking, sex, and violence. Social media may also provide increased access to partners that are more experienced, leading to increased communication about sex because of the perceived privacy of social media. Those who are more active on social media could partake in more risky behaviors because of a larger peer network influencing their attitudes and social norms.
The next article, “Effective approaches to reducing adolescent unprotected sex, pregnancy, and childbearing” by Dr. Douglas Kirby focuses on comprehensive sexual education programs that met a specific criterion. “Dr. Kirby received his PhD in Sociology from UCLA in 1975. For the past 25 years he served as Senior Research Scientist at ETR Associates in California, USA”. He has written numerous articles on the sexual and reproductive health of young people. Dr. Kirby, “is widely recognized as the leading world expert on sex, relationships and HIV education curriculum standards” (UNESCO.org). Dr. Kirby’s article states that sexual education programs must include,
(a) a study that was published in 1980 or later, (b) the study was conducted in the United States or Canada, (c) the program targeted adolescents of middle school or high school age (roughly 12 to 18), (d) the study used an appropriate experimental or quasi-experimental design, (e) the sample size was at least 100 in the combined treatment and control group, and (f) the study measured impact on sexual or contraceptive behavior or pregnancy or childbearing (Kirby 51).
Of the many studies conducted and researched by Dr. Kirby, he found that comprehensive programs that covered both abstinence and contraceptive use/ STD awareness did not show an increase in teen sexuality. The onset of sexual exploration was also not found to begin at an earlier age when introduced to a comprehensive sexual education program (Kirby 51-52). Comprehensive programs were found to decrease the number of sexual partners, lengthen the time teens waited until they had sex and an increase in contraceptive use (Kirby 52-55). Dr. Kirby found programs that also included community volunteer work and involvement along with clinical visits to learn about how to identify STDs were among the most effective (Kirby 54-55). Implementing comprehensive programs also showed significant impacts financially. “That study found that for every dollar invested in the Safer Choices program, $2.65 in total medical and social costs were saved. The savings were produced by preventing pregnancy and STDs, including HIV (Kirby 53). The research conducted in Dr. Kirby’s article showed that educating teens leads to better decision making and more knowledgeable teens when they do decide to become sexually active.
It is important for adolescents to be aware of the precautions that need to be taken if they choose to become sexually active. Many of the research articles showed that the educational system is not doing justice for its students because for the majority the only sexual education the adolescents receive are abstinent based approaches. Many young adolescents are receiving their information from different forms of mass media like the television, movies, magazines, video games, and the Internet (Harris, A. L). Many of the popular media tends to glorify being sexually active and does not look at how to be safe like using contraceptives and the different types that can be used. This is imperative because numerous adolescents are being influenced by the media.