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First Times: Tips for Talking About Virginity and Sex in Teen Dramas

Sierra Filucci Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two Categories: Marketing to Kids, Sex in the Media
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two

Brenda and Dylan, Joey and Pacey, Kurt and Blaine. Talking to teens about sex can be challenging enough, and when they see their favorite characters experience this intimacy for the first time, it can raise questions parents might not be ready to answer.

Whether kids actually watch or not, you can be sure they'll hear exactly what happened through social networks, friends in the classroom, or media coverage. As much as we might want to shield our kids from these sensitive topics for as long as possible, sometimes media pushes our hand. Here's how you can be prepared:

  • Acknowledge that sex and sexuality are part of our culture: Our kids are growing up in a world where teen sex, homosexuality, birth control, and teen pregnancy are all a part of our culture. No longer hidden, these topics pop up every day in movies and TV shows, as well as in schools and politics. Helping kids navigate these tricky waters is part of our job as parents. As loud as the media voices can be, we need to make ours a little louder. Ask kids: What are the real-life consequences of sex, and how are those different from what we see on television? How is sex used to sell products -- including TV shows and movies?
  • Talk about virginity: By the time kids are old enough to watch most teen TV dramas, they probably know the facts of life. But teens find it pretty mortifying to discuss virginity with their parents because they either don't want parents involved in their budding sexuality or because the conversation can veer dangerously close to personal experience. What we can suggest is being clear about your own values as they relate to real life -- and using a TV character as a jumping-off point can make this discussion easier for both parents and teens. You can also point out that no matter what you think about the ages or sexual orientations of favorite characters, there's a difference between casual hook-ups and decisions based on love and intention.
  • Think about how relationships are portrayed on TV: While most teen-oriented dramas make an effort to portray "first times" sensitively, a whole range of other relationships gets played out on the small screen. And kids are influenced by how these characters behave. Glee is one of the first teen dramas to portray homosexual teen relationships the same way as heterosexual ones. Other shows have introduced characters who deal with one-night-stands, abstinence, and domestic violence. Regardless of how each situation strikes you, it's an opportunity to talk about your own family's values, as well as how to react to these kinds of relationships in the real world. No matter what your family believes, it's critically important to stress to your kids that any bullying, name calling, or harassment is unwise and harmful. And make sure that kids know where they can go for support if they need additional help dealing with any of these sensitive relationship topics.
  • Make them media savvy: These "very special episodes" that feature teens having sex get a lot of attention. Help kids understand the hype around TV shows, movies, and musical artists who use sex as a selling tool. Ask kids to think about whether the "first time" storyline makes sense for the characters -- or is it a promotional tool? Also, who participates in the hype: teens, parents, media organizations, the show's marketers?

About Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women's and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley,... Read more

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Comments (8)

Kid, 12 years old

Schools teach all this and much more eventually enough, so it's not something to worry about too much.
Adult written by andres61

In these days lot of teen aged girls and boys are attractive toward sex.. They don't know properly what is safe way and after some times girls are becoming pregnant. for every parents it should be compulsory to talk with their childs about this with frank environment. so they can easily know about this.. http://goo.gl/zyXsXc
Adult written by MadeiraDarling

To me it seems like in WAY too many teen dramas girls are punished (with pregnancy, an STD, or social consequences) for being sexual. I had sex with my long time girlfriend at 15 and I turned out just fine. I think making young women feel fearful and ashamed of their sexuality is just terrible
Adult written by Senser123

I feel remaining a virgin till marriage is more of a biblical thing and that taking a purity pledge whether you are a Christian or not is a safe play to avoid a teen or unplanned pregnancy like my cousin in law to be Cindy's from happening to you if you're a woman.
Parent written by SmileyMiley18

My son just turn 10 and we know that at some point we need to talk to him about sex, but we not sure how much is too much, Any suggestions?
Kid, 11 years old

Turn on a movie which could lead to the subject (obviously not something rated 18/NC-17 if you're American, something around a 12 which will have sexual references) or a TV show (the Big Bang Theory is the best example I can think of for this, a LOT of kids including myself love love love it and a lot of sexual references as well...) and when it gets to a sexual part just talk about it, or if a Miley song comes on the radio talk about her you could work out something from that. Or just talk to him, easiest way! If this is hard give him a book or something, it's easier... I know I'm 11 (a girl but so?) and that's what I'd want my parents to do just talk to me...
Adult written by Senser123

I feel you should say to your boy if you want to keep waiting till marriage for making love and babies that's fine by me.
Adult written by Victorian Gentlemen

1) Get there first; he has more peers than parents, he spends more time with them, their combined values will ultimately be very close to that of the media depending on where you live. 2) Be deliberate; our society does not care about what you want for your child, (I am an active duty marine, and a virgin because of my parents so I know) they will attempt to destroy whatever is different. 3) Make sure he knows that there is value in every action he makes, and certain things are more important than others. 4) Find a good fictional example, someone who shares your beliefs, but also who others within his peer group like that way he can feel less alienated and it will legitimize his, and your beliefs. 5)Remind him that true love cannot be broken by doing the right thing, one of the more common reasons for immature people losing their way is the fear of losing love for a simple no and that is I have lost a few girls in my life to harder things and the idea of that coming between me and someone I truly care about is terrifying to me, but we should always remember that if she breaks your heart for something as simple as saying "I don't believe in premarital sex" then she probably never truly loved you and she would have taking something very important to you for nothing. I really hope I helped. This is an important issue to me and I don't think we have enough people out there willing to support it in the right way.