Offering condoms to 11-year-olds shows that parents and educators need to take more control of their children’s sexual behavior.
To say prevention is better than a cure is a valid argument, but the Philadelphia Department of Public Health went too far when it launched its campaign to provide free condoms via mail to children as young as 11 years old. Through the website TakeControlPhilly.com, a site of the Philadelphia Department of Pubic Health, children can refer to explicit videos on how to properly use a condom, as well as learn about sex education.
Children can no longer be children. They are very aware of what sex is and face the pressure of becoming sexually active at an early age. However, the fact that 11-year -olds can access free condoms without parental consent doesn’t sit well with me.
“This is a family issue,” said La Vette Dibble, the project manager of the Maternal and Child Health Wellness laboratory at Temple. “However, on the other hand, I understand why this is being suggested.”
Dibble said not all children have a warm, caring environment where they are able to “speak openly about feelings, emotions and changes in behavior.”
“I guess it is better to try and prevent [unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted dieseases] than to deal with the possibilities that can result from not trying to prevent,” Dibble added.
According to a 2009 Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior survey, Philadelphia has the highest rate of sexually active teens in the country, as well as the highest rate of youth who become sexually active before the age of 13.
However, I am not convinced that giving free condoms will prevent this. Eleven-year-olds are simply too immature to have sex.
“Maybe it’s difficult for you to stop by one of our sites to pick up condoms,” Take Control Philly’s site reads. “Or maybe you’re just shy or feeling weird about picking up condoms.”
If a child is not able to speak comfortably about sex with a mature adult, they shouldn’t be engaging in sex. Sex entails the ability to handle the psychological aspects of sex, which are not discussed at all throughout Take Control Philly. The site’s method of reducing STDs and unwanted pregnancies is one-sided.
Currently, the Philadelphia School District curriculum offers one year of health education – half of which is devoted to physical education.
The other semester includes learning a variety of topics, including sex. This isn’t enough. To counter the abundance of sexual societal pressures young children face, sex education needs to become a part of everyday curriculum in which the reality and consequences of sex are given in their totality.
What is needed is a strong foundation for sex education implemented into the schools and communities across Philadelphia. While children would learn about safe sex, they would also have the capacity to change the way they view sex and perhaps opt to wait until later in life when they are more mature. Simply to propose that condoms will alleviate unwanted pregnancies and STDs is not accurate, nor will it be effective.
Children need to be taught they are worth more than what they have to offer sexually. I understand children are going to do what they want regardless – especially without the proper guidance, and therefore, need access to protection.
Still, this does not excuse the responsibility of the government to accurately inform them of all the consequences of engaging in sex.
Kierra Bussey can be reached at email@example.com.