Should Girls be Educated at a Younger Age About Sex?

Education is the best way to prevent sexual health problems such as STIs and unintended pregnancies. However, there is a lot of debate over the best way to educate young people about their sexual health.

Why is Sex Education Important?

Sex education provides young people with the knowledge and tools that they need to protect their mental and physical health. An effective sex education policy should help people to manage their emotions and enable them to protect themselves against STIs and accidental pregnancies using contraception.

Early sex education has become even more important due to the sexualisation of the media and the easy access that many children now have to the internet. Even very young children can be exposed to sexual content that could distort their view of relationships. Sex education can counteract this by encouraging more realistic views of sex and developing the skills that are needed to build a good relationship.

What is the Best Age for Sex Education?

Sex education isn’t something that has to be done in one go, at a specific age. It is much better to allow children to learn about sex and relationships gradually and as they are ready.

  • Children as young as 2 or 3 can start asking about where babies come from, so a simple explanation of pregnancy can be appropriate at this stage: that men and women make babies together and they grow inside the woman’s belly.
  • Young children should be taught about relationships, with a particular focus on social conventions about nudity, touching and respecting each other. Children can also begin to learn more facts about how reproduction works.
  • Pre-teens need to know what to expect when their bodies start changing, so start talking about this before puberty begins (which could be as young as 9). Girls especially need to learn about periods before they start menstruating so that they know what to do and that it is normal.
  • During early puberty, children need to learn the facts about sex, reproduction and contraception. Children should also learn to be critical of what they see in the media.
  • Teenagers should be aware of sex, reproduction, and contraception. They also need somewhere they can trust to talk to about their emotions and relationships, or to turn to if they are worried about STIs or pregnancy.

Sex Education for Boys and Girls

Discussions about sex education often focus on girls, since they are the ones who can become pregnant. Girls also tend to mature emotionally and begin puberty a little earlier than boys, so they may be ready to start talking about sex and relationships a bit earlier. However, it is important not to generalise too much. Every child is unique and they should learn about sex when they are ready.

It is also important to remember that educating girls about sex isn’t enough. Boys also need to know how to protect themselves and their partners, especially as they may be in same-sex relationships in the future. Both partners need to know how to build trust, communicate with each other, and develop a safe and respectful sexual relationship.

You should also remember that it’s never too late for sex education, so it’s important to talk to older children too. You should also educate yourself if you feel like you don’t know enough about sexual health and contraception. For example, you might want to visit a doctor for contraception advice.

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