Newswise — Hinsdale, IL, April 29, 2024 – Recent data shows that kids are interested in and participating in sexual behavior. According to the CDC’s 2023 “Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” 30% of high school students reported being sexually active. Among younger students, a 2020 study reports that half of 11-to-13 year-olds have viewed pornography. Another 2021 study shows that 34.8% of 13-to-18 year-olds have received a sext.

May is #SexEdforAll Month, an annual initiative to encourage accessible sex education for young people. While research has consistently shown strong support for sex education among parents and educators, the U.S. currently does not have a national sex education program, leaving programs to vary significantly state by state in terms of funding and accessibility.

What concerns many parents and educators is that a lack of consistency leaves young people without the knowledge and skills they need to make informed and responsible sexual health decisions. To insure updated, fact-based information, most parents believe sex education should be taught in schools. In particular, 85% of parents recently surveyed agreed that it should be taught in middle school. Some experts say it should start earlier. A 2022 study concluded that sex education should be taught before fifth grade based upon social media and internet usage among young people.

“Kids have round-the-clock access to information about sexuality,” explains Katie Gallagher, Director of Education, Candor Health Education, a not-for-profit based outside Chicago. “If no adult is providing them quality information, they’re going to find whatever they can on the internet.” 

Candor, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, provides science-based sex education programming to students in grades four to eight. Its curriculum is delivered in the classroom by specially trained educators to an estimated 80,000 students in more than 600 schools each year.

“Our goal is to equip students with important, functional knowledge to make healthy decisions for themselves and to appreciate and respect the bodies of others as well,” Gallagher says.

Evidence shows that educating children appropriately with medically accurate sex education leads to better sexual health choices. Quality sex education can help young people develop better social and emotional skills and healthy relationships.

Candor has been talking to kids about puberty and sex for 50 years, but the breadth of content has grown beyond just the birds and the bees. “We still talk about puberty, but today we also cover topics like sexting, consent, digital dating abuse, and drug education,” Gallagher says.”