It’s natural for parents to react with alarm when they discover their kids are sexually active. However, there are ways to respond calmly and help them understand the risks involved, including teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s also normal for teens to explore their own sexual arousal through play, such as tickling and hitting each other. But, it can become a problem if this behavior is excessive or involves explicit talk or physical contact.
During puberty, your body grows and changes. Girls develop breasts and begin to have periods, while boys grow a beard, get a deeper voice, and develop a more muscular appearance. For most teens, puberty begins between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 9 and 14 for boys.
The first step in the process occurs when hormones start to circulate through your bloodstream and cause growth. This happens when the hypothalamus in your brain sends signals to the pituitary gland, telling it to produce chemical messengers associated with puberty. These chemicals, known as gonadotropins, then trigger the ovaries or testicles to make the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. This causes the major physical changes that come with puberty, like breast development for girls and a hard, erect penis for boys.
Some kids go through precocious puberty, which occurs when the brain and pituitary gland begin to produce the gonadotropins before puberty normally starts. However, there’s little evidence that this leads to behavior problems or early sexual activity.
At this age, teens often start experimenting with different sexual activities and may try out oral, vaginal and anal sex. They may also share explicit photos or videos of themselves with others without their parents’ consent. Harmful sexual behaviour can cause serious health problems, including pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia.
It is a parent’s role to support their children’s healthy development and to keep them safe. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour, talk to them. You should be able to judge how much of a red flag the behaviour is depending on the context, your family’s values and your child’s individual needs.
While it is important for adolescents to learn about the many benefits of sexual activity, such as increased cognitive function, better health and happiness and even more so, it is equally important that they understand what is at risk if they take unnecessary or inappropriate risks. This includes understanding the impact of sexual risk taking on their relationships with friends, partners and other family members. Comprehensive sex education programs can help to reduce the risk of STIs, unplanned pregnancy and other harmful sexual behaviour. They provide teens with a solid foundation of knowledge about sexuality and gender, and how it affects their bodies, their community, culture, society, mental health and relationships with family and friends.
At 14 years old, most teens are involved in a romantic relationship or at least trying to get one. They are also more involved with their peer group, and may spend a lot of time texting friends or on social media like Snapchat or Tik-Tok. The hormones of puberty affect their emotions and make them feel much more intensely than before. This is why many teens get upset very easily and have a hard time explaining what they are feeling to their parents.
Guys will start producing sperm at the onset of puberty, usually around age 10 or 12, though it is different for everyone. They may release sperm daily, especially while masturbating. They should not try to control this – it is natural and healthy for their body.
A lot of teen sexual activity happens within relationships, although some occurs outside of them as well. This can be a result of peer pressure or simply the desire to connect with people. In some cases, this can be dangerous and lead to pregnancy or other health problems.
It is important for teens to understand that sex does not necessarily mean love. They should learn to communicate with their partners and work out a happy medium. They should also be aware that if they are constantly ignoring their partner’s needs, the intimacy of the relationship may decline over time.
During adolescence, it’s common for children and teenagers to develop sexual feelings and explore their bodies. This may include touching their genitals, having sexual fantasies and masturbating. It’s also common to be attracted to people of different genders, and this can be a part of one’s sexual orientation (whether you identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or ace).
While it’s a natural stage in development, it’s important to help teens understand the difference between expected teenage sexual exploration and behaviour that can be harmful to themselves or others. The best way to do this is to keep the lines of communication open and nonjudgmental and to provide a safe space for them to talk.
Many teens try to satisfy their curiosity about sex and bodies by reading information about sexually explicit activities, including pictures of naked people or animal sexual behavior. Youth often find this material through older siblings’ biology books, pornographic magazines, friends, sex websites and the internet. Youth might also observe their peers’ physical affections or sexual behaviour, such as by watching them take a shower or changing clothes.
Some adolescents are exposed to harmful sexual behaviour through peer influence or media portrayal of girls and women as sex objects, or men as sexual conquests. These messages can lead to unhealthy sexual attitudes and distorted beliefs about what is permissible and desirable.