The increase in underage sex is not an issue of sexual liberalisation or promiscuity (“Underage sex more common, say social workers”; Monday).
The fall in teen births is not an issue of contraception or health education (“Teen births drop to 20-year low”; Monday).
The underlying issue here is how our teens see and value themselves.
With many dual-income households today, children return home after school to an empty house or to non-parental caregivers.
They are imbued with messages that they need to excel academically, that their worth is based on their performance.
Often, less attention is given towards filling their love tanks with the knowledge that they are accepted, affirmed and approved of by their parents for who they are and not what they have accomplished.
Movies and television programmes have become more sexually graphic and explicit, with characters in the media losing their virginity and engaging in sex with “benefits” without the reality of consequences like pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and being emotionally hurt.
Pornography teaches young men that women are mere sexual objects to be used for physical pleasure, while young women receive the message that to get “love”, they have to give sex.
Explicitly or implicitly telling our youth that “they are going to have sex anyway, so we might as well teach them how to do it safely” can send them a disempowering message that they don’t have the ability for self-control or delayed gratification.
Research shows that teens are less likely to engage in premarital sex if they have a close, warm relationship with their parents, and if their parents clearly communicate their expectations regarding sexual behaviour and the reasons for sexual boundaries.
When teenagers feel the unconditional love from their parents, this will prevent them from looking for love in the wrong places.
People are built for intimacy. As parents and society, let us give the message to our young people that intimate sexual activity is an expression of love reserved for marriage.
Why? Because they are worth the wait.
Shelen Ang (Mrs)
Head, Research and Development
Focus on the Family Singapore