Teen pregnancy continues to be a big problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC, 367,752 babies were born to women ages 15-19 in 2010, the last year for which data is available. That was a record low for women in that age range, and a drop of 9 percent from the previous year.
However, the CDC noted that the rate of teen births remained "substantially higher" than that of other western industrialized nations, and that teen births create significant social and economic costs, including:
- $11 billion per year in taxpayer programs, including health care, foster care, and increase incarceration rates
- Increased high-school dropout rates
- Increased unemployment rates among teen mothers
- Increased reliance on social programs by these young mothers
Teen pregnancy is also often bad for both the mother and the baby, as most young mothers have limited access to health care or do not have the maturity to keep appointments or tend to prenatal care. Teen mothers are more likely to have low birth-weight babies, who are prone to a host of health problems. Children born to teen mothers are also less likely to receive the nutrition, health care, or developmental support that they need.
Finding ways to prevent or reduce the number of teen pregnancies is critical to reducing these social, economic, and health problems.
Here are a few ways that educators can help play a role in preventing teen pregnancy:
Educate about the Risks
As educators, you are in a prime role to help make teens aware of the dangers of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other consequences of sexual activity. You can teach teens about responsible sexual health, including using contraceptives and being tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Depending on your role or your training, you can either provide counseling to teens or push for programs at your school that provide it. Counseling can help teens understand when to recognize that they are ready for sexual relations, how to choose their partners, and how to make responsible decisions about romantic relationships.
Counseling should also focus on the underlying problems that can lead teens to engage in risky behavior, such as problems at home or emotional insecurity.
Push for Support Programs
If your school or community does not already have them, you can work to introduce them. Support programs can include those that provide free contraception like condoms or birth control or that provide free or affordable health care.
Support programs can also include positive activities that can provide an outlet for teens, such as sports programs or community theater. While these programs won't be teaching teens about making healthy sexual choices, they will provide them an outlet for expression and for building up their self-esteem and sense of belonging so that they don't seek unhealthy activities to get a false sense of fulfillment.
Encourage Parental Involvement
Parents are the biggest influence on teen behavior. If parents are involved in their children's lives and are providing a positive role model, teens are far less likely to be involved in risky behavior.
As educators, you can talk to the parents of your students about what their teens are doing at school and how they can get involved. Hold conferences where you ask about what's going on at home then provide information about local support services to help make it easier for them to be more involved with their children.
Teen pregnancy is a problem that affects everyone. Teen mothers become adults who struggle with getting an education and rising to the level of their peers. The children of teen mothers struggle with health and education problems.
Finding ways to help prevent or reduce teen pregnancy is critical. Educators can play a role by promoting sexual education, offering counseling, encouraging the adoption of support programs, and encouraging greater parental involvement.
(*) Dana Vicktor is the senior researcher and writer for duedatecalculator.org. Her most recent accomplishments include graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in communications and sociology. Her current focus for the site involves stem cells and being pregnant.