Ask Dr. Marla: How can I teach teens about STIs and safe sex?
By Dr. Marla Shapiro
on November 01, 2012
I want my teens to have a healthy
attitude towards sex but I also want
them to be cautious. How can I teach
them about STIs and safe sex without
I think it is terrific that you recognize that
education and information is the best way
for your teens to make informed decisions.
Opening the door to this conversation is
critical as all sexually active adolescents are
at an increased risk for sexually transmitted
infections (STIs) and should be offered
According to the US Preventive Services
Task Force (USPSTF), studies show that
formal information sessions are effective
in reducing the incidence of STIs. It is
important that the information you share
with them is accurate and without judgment.
Some kids might be embarrassed to have
this frank discussion with a parent and an
alternative option might be to encourage your
teen to speak with their healthcare provider.
Although teens might feel they have all
the information, many are uninformed
about the wide array of potential STIs, their
prevalence and risk of transmission. In
addition to safe sex practices, a discussion
about immunization strategies to prevent
transmission of HPV related diseases in both
boys and girls is critical.
Among the studies reviewed by the
USPSTF, the most successful high-intensity
interventions were delivered through
multiple sessions, most often in groups,
lasting from three to nine hours. There was
little evidence showing that single-session
interventions or interventions lasting less
than 30 minutes were effective in reducing
STIs. So, good advice to parents would be to
have ongoing conversations with your child
and be open to questions and periodic review.
Formal studies show there is no evidence
of any significant harm as a result of riskreduction
counselling. Another study found
that risk-reduction counselling did not lead
to earlier sexual debut among boys, so I don’t
think you need to be concerned about scaring
your children by talking about safe sex and
proper condom use.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2012.