Is Everybody Doing it?


“First would be like kissing; second base would be like making out; third would be like oral sex.” -Maia, 14 years old

“You know the 60’s and free love. That was college-aged kids. It wasn’t junior high kids.” -Aimee, a mom

“Most of the kids I know, they don’t make it past their 16th birthday without losing their virginity.” -Courtni, 17 years old

“It’s everybody else but your own child, that’s the denial part of it.” -Kierstin, a mom

Teens think everyone’s doing it, while parents are convinced their children never would. A national poll conducted by NBC and People Magazine found a large gap in what parents believe about the sexual activity of their teens and what they are actually doing.

What’s Going On in Their Heads?
27% of 13-16 year olds have been sexually intimate, while just over half (15%) of their parents believe they have not gone beyond kissing. According to the study, over one in five 9th graders have slept with four or more partners.

While an alarming percentage of young teens are sexually active, the majority are waiting. “For what?” One teen shared, “Abstinence is a self-respect thing for me. You know being a virgin is something so sacred?” When asked if she would save sex until marriage, she replied, “I’m just going to wait until I feel the right time has come along. I don’t necessarily feel that marriage is the right time.”

Many teens share these same values. In fact, the number one reason teens wait to have sex has nothing to do with marriage but is simply because they feel that they are too young. Yet too young is no longer an issue when they meet the right person, which is why most of them change their mind and decide to have sex. Two thirds of teens agreed or strongly agreed that it is all right for two unmarried 18 years olds to have sex if they have strong affection for each other.

What Parents Think They Know
Do parents really know what’s going on? During NBC interviews, a group of teenagers were asked, “How much do you talk to your parents about what you’re doing sexually?” They all replied, “Zero. None.” One teen shared, “Some things you have to keep private to yourself.”

A mom later pointed out, “When you’re driving car pool you can eavesdrop and you can hear conversations. And when they start driving themselves, you lose that information. And they call each other on their cell phones in their room with the door closed.”

Another mom stated, “I think you’ll probably agree with me that most parents like myself are pretty much clueless.”

Beth waited until her daughter, Elizabeth, was 14 before discussing AIDS, contraception and sex with her, only to find out that Elizabeth had been having sex since she was 13.

Influence of Media
Fifteen-year-old Adam said his parents would be shocked if they knew that he started having oral sex two years ago. He estimates about 75% of his friends also do it, adding, “I learned most of what I know from my older brother and Sex and the City.”

51% of teens claim to have learned about sex through TV and/or movies. Shows like Dawson’s Creek and Popular depict teen sex as exciting and normal. More than half of all TV shows contain sexual content, with the average prime-time program featuring five or more sexual references per hour and only 9% of them ever mentioning behaviors such as abstinence or using contraception.

“I mean you get used to it,” one teen told NBC. “It’s on TV so often. It’s everywhere. Every TV channel has commercials with like half-naked women nowadays.”

So is everyone doing it, or is it all talk? Studies prove that the majority of teens are not having sex. In fact, seven out of ten 13-16 year olds are not sexually active and haven’t gone beyond kissing.

But the pressure to have sex or be sexual is very real and is stronger than ever. 15-year-old Garon shared, “I wish I could talk to my parents about how hard it is to be a teenager because it’s a lot harder than they think. I don’t think my parents could walk a day in my shoes.”

There’s a lot more going on in the lives of teens than most parents are aware of. Many, like Beth, think they know their children well, only to find out later that their assumptions were wrong. The challenge is to understand teens and their culture so that you can be an effective influencer in their life.

Find out more about the NBC study at

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