Local and Community News
Maryland: Forum on Teen-Age Sexuality Sounds a Warning
February 20, 2003
Students and parents filled Centennial High School's media center in Ellicot City, Md., on a recent Thursday for the forum "Teenage Dating and Sexuality." Sponsored by HC DrugFree -- a coalition of parents, schools and county agencies -- the discussion delivered a warning: Howard County kids are having unprotected sex and are getting pregnant and many are contracting STDs, said Kathy Siltanen, charge nurse at the Howard County Health Department's Teen Clinics.Adapted from:
Siltanen told attendees that a cross-section of Howard County kids from every high school and socioeconomic group are seen at her clinic. "Everybody has this attitude of 'not my kid, not my county,'" said Laura Smit, coordinator for HC DrugFree and the Coalition for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. "I think that kids also feel powerless going against the mainstream media, which is sexualizing everything. And that's where the silence of the parents [comes in] -- if you don't say anything, then you're letting the media teach your kids," said Smit.
Parents seeking advice on what they should say to their children were told to be clear about values, talk early and often with children, and be an active presence in their lives. Do not be afraid to say what you feel, said Anne Anderson Sawyer, instructor in Human Sexuality and Women's Health at Howard Community College and a CAPP volunteer. Scariest to some parents was the idea that some kids divorce the act of sex from love and relationship. "Oral sex is so big [now]. They don't consider it sex, they really don't," Smit said.
The forum, a part of HC DrugFree's "Issues in Parenting" speaker series, also included speakers from the Sexual Trauma Advocacy & Recovery Center and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.