Following studies in the 1990s and early 2000s which found serious gaps in the sex education of minors, national public health organizations called for increased sex education from schools and parents. This article analyzes changes made in sex education from 2006 to 2013 according to the National Surveys of Family Growth, which focused on “how to say no to sex,” “methods of birth control,” “sexually transmitted diseases,” “how to prevent HIV/AIDS,” “waiting until marriage to have sex,” “where to get birth control,” and “how to use a condom”
Although many of the adolescents surveyed had received formal instruction on abstinence before marriage, there were declines in the number of teens receiving instruction about methods of birth control, sexually transmitted disease, and saying no to sex. For many study participants, sex education began after their first sex. Declines in sex education were especially common in nonmetropolitan areas, where teenagers also reported higher-than-average instances of pregnancy, lower rates of contraceptive use, and restricted access to sexual and reproductive health care services.
Despite the decline in sex education, reliance on contraceptives by teenagers has been increasing. The authors hypothesize that the internet may be providing a source for comprehensive sex education for teenagers, relying on past studies finding 92% of adolescents use the internet once a day, while 55% reported using the internet to look up health information. Since the quality of online sex education might be lacking, the authors suggest this possibility be explored in future research.