Revealed! Appropriate age to teach kids sex education
The subject of sex is a sensitive topic that many parents feel awkward to discuss with children. When anything related to sex is mentioned in the home or school, many parents and teachers are fond of ending their children’s curiosity by simply telling them they are too young to know about it.
Experts say this phobia for educating kids about sex stems from the fear that teaching it at a tender age may have some damning consequences on the kids. Many parents also think that sex, as a subject, is only meant for adults and would make kids morally corrupt.
A medical doctor, Mr. Jide Aremo, who belongs to this school of thought, noted that since sex was usually for grown-ups, educating children about the subject might have some consequences. Aremo justified his position by saying kids are usually curious about knowledge acquisition.
He said, “For me, practically (sex education for kids) is a no-no. Let me tell you why. Kids are inquisitive beings. They are always eager to try out whatever they learn.
“See the way they try to act out those cartoon characters they watch or imitate the dance steps they see. One has to be careful. Out of curiosity to learn further and know more about the tit bits given to them, they might start exploring.”
A child rights advocate, Ebenezer Omejalile, however, holds a contrary view. Omejalile, who works with the Child Protection Network, expressed concerns with the upsurge in cases of abuse of minors.
He added that such negative trend had made it compulsory to educate children about sensitive parts of their bodies and what to do to prevent abuses.
Omejalile says Aremo’s view may be correct to some extent, adding that sexual education doesn’t have to include vivid details of sex but “simple and effective lessons that give children the chance to report sexual abuse and prevent it.”
He stated, “Sex education is important to kids because they are vulnerable and susceptible to sexual abuse. This is a crime that I have spent some years fighting. It is sad that children are being abused these days and the cases are becoming rampant. These abuses are not reported because children do not know it’s wrong.
“I told my kid daughter to report to me if anyone touches her indiscriminately. She reported a boy who touched her buttocks to me. I went to warn the boy never to try that. If I had not educated my child that her buttocks are private to her, she may not have reported to me to take action. This is why we need to educate our children on sex and let them know that their private parts are ‘private’ and not to be touched by anybody.”
Current researches have begun to underscore the importance of sex education for kids. The American Academy of Paediatrics notes that that from infancy, children begin to have consciousness about their body, including touching their genitals when naked. The academy notes that this process is a product of curiosity and not for sexual activities.
Thus, when such children ask questions about such topics, parents are advised to answer them constructively without giving too much away.
According to the academy, sex education “involves teaching about human sexuality, including intimate relationships, human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexually transmitted infections, sexual activity, consent, sexual orientation, abstinence, contraception and reproductive rights and responsibilities.”
It added that developmentally, appropriate and evidence-based education by paediatricians, schools, other professionals and parents were important to help children and adolescents make informed, positive and safe choices about healthy relationships, responsible sexual activity and their reproductive health, as such education could prevent and reduce the risks of pregnancy, HIV and STIs.
While many experts and parents agree that sex education is important for kids, there is a raging debate on the age of a child when the parents have to start teaching the him or her sex education. While some believe that sex education should begin when a child attains puberty, others think it should begin earlier.
An activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to SUNDAY PUNCH because his daughter was sexually-abused by her teacher, believes that sex education, should start at age four or five when most children usually begin school.
The activist alleged that many schools in the country had teachers who were paedophiles and desirous of abusing their pupils.
He added, “I strongly believe that sex education is not too early when a child is about age four or five. Tell your child to cry out when someone touches his or her genitals. We need to tell our children that their genitals are ‘private’ and should not be touched.”
Another parent, Mrs. Laide Fadimu, holds a similar view. She described the danger of not educating children about sex at an early age as enormous.
“Children should be given sex education at an early age. Tell them what their private parts are called. Educate them that they should not allow anyone to touch their genitals. African culture is conventional and we see discussions of sex as a taboo. This is a big mistake. It is better to be careful than sorry,” she added.
An early childhood development specialist, Mr. Ebenezer Adeola, noted that talking to children about their sexual organs and sexually-transmitted diseases at early ages like four or five might help them from contracting sexually-transmitted diseases.
Adeola, however, believes that sex education should be gradual until the child is old enough to take decisions on his or her own.
Adeola stated, “It is really not a bad thing for kids to be introduced to sex education at early ages. There is nothing bad if a child understands that sharing blades or sharp instrument with an infected person in school can lead to the transmission of HIV. It is also important to let them know the dangers of sex which can be sexually-transmitted diseases.
“But I think it has to be a gradual process. When a girl gets to the age of eight, she may start developing breasts. Such a child is trying to understand her body and needs all the parental support in the form of education which many of them don’t get.”
Aremo noted that a child should be introduced to sex education during teenage years.
Describing sex education as a very sensitive and controversial idea, the medical doctor warned that sex education of kids might corrupt their minds.
The expert shared the story of some people invited to give a sex-talk to pupils and the school owner stopped them midway because they were getting “too raw and vulgar” with their lecture.
He said, “It is a very sensitive issue that deserves great care. How do you tell a young boy about erection and penetration without stirring something inside of him? But how do you begin to explain to a six-year-old that her vagina is what makes her pregnant?
“But the world is changing. These kids get a lot of exposure before that age. We must, however, tell them to report when they are touched indiscriminately. That should be emphasised to kids.”
On when kids should be taught sex education, the expert said, “They can teach them to understand that sexual organs are private and not to be exposed publicly or touched indiscriminately. Parents should earn their kids’ trust.
“That trust ensures any case is reported. For example, a child can be told that if anybody, including family relations, touches him or her in school or said show me your buttocks, they should report. They should also be made to understand that sexual abuse is not always about touching. If a male teacher asks young girls to show him their pants. He then says the girl with the finest pant will be his friend. Is that not an abuse?
Aremo said he had never been an advocate of sex education because he believed that it had not really helped.
According to him, when it’s time for sex education, such children will learn it comprehensively, hence the focus should be more on adults.Punch