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Tips for Parents: Talking to Your Teens About Sex and Other Health Topics

It is important for parents to talk to their teens about sex, STIs*, tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Teens want to make their own decisions, but their parents and peers also influence them. Studies show that young people whose parents talk to them about sex and other topics are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Here are some facts and advice to help you become more knowledgeable and more comfortable when speaking with your teen.

*Note: The term sexually transmitted infections (STIs) refers to any infection that can be spread through sexual contact. These infections are often referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The terms STI and STD have the same meaning.

Be aware of these facts about young people:

    • In 2011, 364 babies were born to Anne Arundel County mothers ages 19 and under. Pregnant teens and their unborn babies have unique medical risks, including high blood pressure, low birth weight and premature birth.
    • Chlamydia and gonorrhea are STIs that can cause sterility (inability to get pregnant). In 2011, 35% of chlamydia cases and 25% of gonorrhea cases were diagnosed among Anne Arundel County teens ages 19 and under.
    • Tobacco Usage Among Youth
      • The 2011 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that among high school students:
        • Cigarette Use
          • 41% ever tried cigarette smoking.
          • 12% smoked cigarettes on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
          • 2010 Anne Arundel County - Cigarette Smoking Data:

            Anne Arundel County-Current Cigarette Smoking
        • Other Tobacco Use
          • 7% used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
          • 13% smoked cigars, cigarillos or little cigars on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
        • Any Tobacco Use
          • 18% smoked cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or little cigars or used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
        • Alcohol Usage Among Youth
          • The 2011 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that among high school students:
            • 64% ever tried alcohol.
            • 35% drank some amount of alcohol during the 30 days before the survey.

              Percent of Youth by Grade Level
            • 18% binge drank (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days before the survey).

              Percent of Youth by Grade Level
        • Drug Usage Among Youth
          • The 2011 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that among high school students:
            • 37% ever used marijuana.
            • 23% used marijuana one or more times during the 30 days before the survey.

              Percent of Youth by Grade Level
          • For a complete list of all drug usage in Maryland click here.

What your teen needs to know about sex:

      • Practicing abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and prevent getting an STI.
      • There are risks of getting an STI by having vaginal, oral or anal sex, even if a condom is used.
      • The use of alcohol and drugs may affect the ability to use good judgment and make decisions, including those related to sexual activity. Unwanted pregnancy, date rape, sexual violence or other physical injuries can be the result of alcohol and drug use.

How do you begin talking to your teens?

      • Clearly state your values and morals, so your teens understand how you feel about drugs, alcohol, STIs, teen pregnancy and teen sex.
      • Listen to your teens to find out what they know or don’t know about these topics. Remember, you have the greatest influence in your teen’s life. It is never too early to talk to your teens about drugs, STIs, teen pregnancy or teen sex.
      • For more tips, view Talking Together Makes a Difference (PDF).

What does the Anne Arundel County Department of Health offer for parents and teens?

    • Pregnancy testing and a list of family planning services (free and confidential) are available at:

      Glen Burnie Health Center
      416 A Street, S.W.
      Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061
      410-222-6633

      Parole Health Center
      1950 Drew Street
      Annapolis, Maryland 21401
      410-222-7381
    • Health educators and medical staff are available to answer questions about teen health. You can call the following programs:
      • Healthy Teens and Young Adults Program, 410-222-4468
        Provides outreach and education to teens, schools and community groups for free. Speakers may be requested.
      • Alcohol and Drug Prevention Services, 410-222-6724
        Provides information about alcohol and drug prevention. Referrals for treatment are available. Health educators are available to speak to groups of parents, teens and community members for free. Speakers may be requested.
      • HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Program, 410-222-7382
        Provides free and anonymous HIV and STI counseling and testing located throughout the County.
      • Immunizations Program, 410-222-4896
        Provides recommended immunizations. Parental consent is required.

Parents can get more information at the following websites:

Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Teen Pregnancy: The Importance of Prevention, CDC

Birth Control
Unintended Pregnancy Prevention: Contraception, CDC
Anne Arundel County Teen Birth Rates (PDF)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STD Topics, CDC
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in Anne Arundel County
Sexually Transmitted Disease Services and Safe Sex Kit

Raising Healthy Kids
Learn To Live, Raising Healthy Kids Resource Center
Campaign for Our Children
Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention
Smoking Stinks, tobacco use prevention and cessation, Learn To Live
Too Smart to Start, underage alcohol use prevention, SAMHSA

Health Care for Families and Youth
Anne Arundel County Network of Care
Maryland Health Connection