How to teach sex education in a digital age
As technological advancements dictate the pace and people’s lifestyle, especially the youths, perspectives and approaches to issues also change from what they used to be. These days, quite a number of social issues have been affected by the virtual world, which operates on a totally different template from what used to be the norm. For instance, sex education, which used to be a dare-not-talk about topic in most homes in the early 80s and 90s, has now become a regular feature in the public domain, where it is endlessly debated, together with other related matters. Unlike their conservative parents, today’s young people are today exposed to contents and materials revolving around their sexuality wherever and whenever the need arises. Such discussions were formerly restricted to biology classes.
So, to flow with the current tide, parents are now being advised to shed their ‘conservative toga’ and connect firmly with their tech-savvy adolescents by adopting a more modern and practical approach to sex education, thereby averting the recurring incidences of rape, teenage pregnancy, problems associated with IVF, as well as ensuring that better morals are inculcated in their offspring.
But is it all parents that buy this idea? How best can the issue be handled without unduly blowing it out of proportion?
Dr. Emmanuel Balogun, a parent and senior lecturer at the Economics Department, University of Lagos, still believes that the traditional method of bringing up children is the best way to go, despite the fact of Internet.
“My children didn’t go through the Internet age, although they are very proficient with its use,” he said. “To be candid, however, I have often said that at the stage of primary and even secondary levels, the best way to bring up a child is to give him/her the opportunity to have Christian education.
“This notwithstanding, it is also important, as a parent to play one’s role. Parents shouldn’t abandon their children totally to house helps and even school teachers. Nowadays, many parents don’t have time for their children. They go to work very early in the morning, only to come back very late to the point that the children don’t know their parents very well. It, therefore, means that no matter how young you think your children are, never transfer their upkeep to a third party, especially house help.
“There are many reasons for this. For instance, some children experiment with online pornography because that parental control is not there. So, parents should find time to play their guardian role from as early as age four or five, when the child is progressing to cognitive age to decipher between right and wrong, and even experiment with some of those things the child sees on television.”
Citing a personal experience, Dr. Balogun said the best and simplest way to properly raise a responsible and sound child is through exposing him/her to those doctrines that will help to guide the child.
“Personally, I do not engage my children in infant baptism, as required by the Catholic Church. Rather, I allow the child to get to age six or seven, and then send him/her to Catholic catechism, so that when the time for baptism comes, he has already understood the doctrines and has begun to imbibe the culture.
“Today’s children know more than us, but the key to successful parenting is constant discussion of sex education with the children. I tell my children that there is nothing to it, that they shouldn’t be deceived. It is important to let them know that there is a time for everything and when it is not yet time, there is no need for them to be in a hurry. Parents should also give a lot of caution both to their male and female child alike with regards to the issue,” he explained.
A psychologist, Dr. Raphael James, would rather take the bull by the horn, as he recollected: “When my first daughter was in primary three, I remember sitting her down to talk sex with her and my wife was worried about it. I explained to her that it all depends on how the issue is addressed. I was not telling my daughter how it is done, I was just cautioning her to be careful of an uncle, who will call her ‘my wife’ at that tender age, to be careful of a teacher, who will ask her to come and sit on their laps because most of the time, this is how it starts. These predators draw young children close to them and in the process get aroused to have sexual intercourse with them. So, it is necessary to educate young children about the dangers, when a man intends taking undue advantage of them.
“Presently, I keep a close eye on my children. I know they are on Facebook and twitter. So, occasionally I walk into their room unannounced to see what they are doing. I don’t scold them, but just caution them, when I see them using the social media wrongly.
“However, I know that in most Christian homes even till today, sex education is still a taboo. They find it difficult to talk about it, but the truth of the matter is that the major problem we have in the world today is sex, even between parents. While I was in the secondary school, I remember that the three girls that got pregnant were children of pastors. I believe that most probably, it was due to their parents’ religious view on such things that prevented them from discussing sex with those girls. So, they were open to all the crisis and issues pertaining to it.
“So, the earlier we started telling our kids about the dangers involved, the better for us and them. If you let them get to the age of 18 when they can decide for themselves, there is nothing much a parent can do then, except to caution them.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Ekeh, a mother of two, however, said she would rather delay sex discussion with her children and wait until they are 10 years.