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Is sex education going too far?

Sex education should be informative, but the kinds of information shared can really vary from school to school. Do you know what your kids are being taught?

Teenager studying |

Sex education is a staple in many public schools, but there have been a few stories going around lately that have shocked not only the parents of the kids in the classes, but others as well as the stories go viral about what these kids are being taught in the classroom. What should sex ed consist of, and what needs to be kept under wraps at this stage?

Just the basics

Kids as young as 8 or 9 will benefit from human biological basics, particularly girls — who can begin puberty at this age, or even earlier. And don’t be afraid to use the proper words for genitals, no matter how old your child is. Many moms talk about menstruation at home well before the big event takes place, but if they don’t, the school nurse usually starts girls-only discussions in the fourth grade or so. This is imperative — can you imagine not having a clue, and then you start bleeding when you’re 8 or 9?

However, true sex education that goes beyond body basics usually starts around age 12. These classes usually cover the same concepts (puberty and the changes our bodies go through as we mature) but they also cover human reproduction and the responsibility that comes with being sexually active — such as consent, condoms, birth control, pregnancy facts and knowledge about sexually-transmitted diseases.

What’s the fuss?

Some school districts have come under fire, though, for going beyond these biological basic facts, and some parents are crying foul when it comes to what their kids are exposed to. For example, a student in a Kansas City area middle school snapped a picture of a poster and showed it to her dad, who was disturbed to read about the types of sex acts people might engage in to express their sexual feelings, such as oral sex and anal intercourse.

And a school in Switzerland took the bold step of handing out sex education kits to kids younger than 9 — a move that has resulted in the potential for sex ed for kids that age to be banned. Not only is the age of the kids involved an issue, but the fact that the kits included stuffed penises and vulvas (no, we’re not kidding).

Take charge of what your child is learning

Most parents agree that open dialogue is important, but schools should stick to the basics when it comes to sex education. Biology, reproduction, pregnancy prevention and STDs are all extremely important topics to discuss with kids entering this transitional stage in their lives. However, parents should always feel free to contact their child’s school to find out exactly what will be covered. Often, kids can opt out of sex education classes if their parent wants to have more control over what they learn regarding sex and relationships.

Keeping informed of what’s going on in your child’s school can cut down on unhappy surprises, and as long as you’re on the same page, you won’t have your 13-year-old coming home asking questions about sex that you’re uncomfortable with or totally unprepared for.

More about teens and sex

How to talk to your son about date rape
Should you give your teen birth control?
Is your sex talk sinking in with your teen?

Photo credit: Fuse/Getty Images

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