Here’s Another Way to Keep Teens from Being Safe

Last week, North Carolina legislators considered a measure that would require teens to obtain parental consent to obtain a number of basic sexual health services, like birth control prescriptions and STD testing and treatment. The idea, according to the measure’s proponents, is to avoid problems involving teen’s health decisions and to open the lines of communication between parents and their children.

There are a million problems with this, as Tara Culp-Ressler reports at Think Progress. Among those problems is the fact that not all teens have awesome relationships with their parents. In fact, as much as we would like to deny it, those relationships can be downright abusive. Regardless of what the ideal might be, it’s not always possible for teenagers to talk to their parents and we shouldn’t make it any harder for young people to get the health care they need.

But this measure also betrays our attitude regarding teenagers.

Think back for a second. Remember when you were a teenager? It’s this nebulous place between childhood and adulthood. It’s a time of many mistakes, sure. But it’s also a time to learn from those mistakes as they develop into full adults. In the span of a few years, it becomes inappropriate to treat teens as children who are incapable of making their own informed decisions. It happens rapidly, but it does happen.

I think adults tend to forget what it’s like to be a teenager. We – adults – can forget that teens have their own internal lives with their own need for privacy and the need to make their own life decisions. And, come on, if you have a teen who is thinking about contraception and STD testing, you’ve got a pretty responsible teen.

Let’s face it. We have a pretty screwed up relationship with sex. It’s a perfectly natural part of life, yet it’s often considered a shameful act that needs to be hidden. This goes double for teens who are starting to see themselves as sexual beings. On the one hand, sex is everywhere. On the other hand, we as a society choose to ignore the fact that teens have sex. We decide to fund abstinence-only education instead of comprehensive sex ed under the misguided assumption that if we can just make sex as scary as possible young people won’t engage in it. But this has been proven wrong.

So we try to make it harder for teens to get the information they need to keep themselves healthy and not pregnant? That only makes sense if the goal is to keep control of teenagers. Which is, in my humble opinion, a fool’s errand.

Look, I’m almost 30. I’m completely irrelevant when it comes to youth culture. And I probably wouldn’t have as much of a sense that teens are autonomous humans if not for the fact that I’m basically surrounded by them every day as part of another project. However, I’ve learned that teenagers are smart. They may need some guidance, but guidance doesn’t mean make information harder to come by. And teens don’t become functional adults without some freedom to think and act for themselves. Us olds would do well to remember that.


Image credit: Flickr


Norma V.
Norma Villarreal4 years ago

It seems North Carolina still has taboos that make it one of the less progressive states when it comes to sex education.

Alicia Westberry
Alicia Westberry4 years ago

This is just what I would expect from a Southern state. Not all teenagers can talk openly to their parents; no matter the reason. These teenagers are the exact reason why measures like this are so dangerous,

John Hablinski
John Hablinski4 years ago

Andrey Y. Sex would be the very last thing most kids would talk to their parents about & vice versa. Though many parents are outwardly pissed at the judge who mandated “day after” or “plan B” pills be made available over the counter for 15 year olds I think many of those same angry parents are secretly glad they don’t have to deal with their children’s questions about sex. These kids have grown up with the internet and cell phones. Hard core porn is a key stroke away. If their parents think they have blocked access to such sites the kids know a way around it. Windows 7 has in-private browsing which doesn’t leave a history of visited sites. Many kids & adults too would much rather use text messages over phone conversations or face to face meetings. With the internet teens and preteens as well have ready access to virtually everything mankind knows about anything. They don’t need to ask their parents about much.

Deryck B.
Deryck B4 years ago

".......better off listening to their parents"

yes of course - LISTENING to their parents - but not all parents! Some parents cannot cope with sex themselves, some will resort to violence, or punishment or whatever.

But to legislate that they MUST ALWAYS go thru their parents,.....never!

One of the best things we can give our children is the ability to choose for themselves - they are individual autonomous beings and parent can best help them by getting them to help themsleves - the children of wise parents will go to their parents, it is the children of lesser parents who NEED the freedom

In my view!

love respect and hugs not control

deryck xx

Andre Yokers
Andrs Yokers4 years ago

A difficult issue, but I think teens would be better off listening to their parents on the point of sexuality. Perhaps our sex culture is partly to blame.

faith v.
faith v4 years ago

The fact that "not all teens have good relationships with their parents" needs to be stressed much more often and much more publicly.

In fact, my guess is that this legislation is designed to increase control opportunities for those parents who have not managed to maintain a sane level of discussion with their kids.
- spoiler, yes I had teen kids, grown adults now. It wasn't always easy.

Worst of all, those girls impregnated by their (step-)fathers, brothers, grandfathers, etc.
They, more than any other group, are desperately need all the help they can get, and the one place they will definitely NOT get it is the home where the abuse occurred.

Actual verbatim quote from the vice-principal of a school where I once taught;
"We have a new girl, Jane Doe, from the foster home as of today - she is responsible for putting her father in jail."
(Meaning she had gone over her mother's head and reported the rapes.
Mom put Jane into care to "protect the siblings from her filthy presence".)

If politicians have not considered this, they should not be drawing any pay for the job, nor should they be blocking it for a more competent candidate.

If politicians voting for these bills HAVE considered the incest aspect and still vote for the bill anyway, they should be in jail themselves for abusing the trust the voters placed in them.

pam w.
pam w4 years ago

Couldn't have said it better!

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Look the whole concept of "teenagers" is really bullshit, it is a term invented my marketers in the early twentieth century. The fact of the matter is that once you go through puberty you are, biologically speaking, an adult. Biological adults need access to basic sexual health services.

Kay Redmon
Kay Redmon4 years ago

After reading the comments of Tom E & Amanda M, I really don't have much to say, as they took the words right out of my mouth. Excellent comment, concise & to the point with no mucking around. Green Stars to both.....Well said..