Why talk with your teen about relationships and sex?

The teen years can be exciting and overwhelming for both parents and teens! It is normal for teens to explore romantic relationships and sexual feelings, and parents can be a big influence on the decisions their teen make about relationships and sex.

The facts can feel scary. Nearly half of high school students have had sex,1 and teens are at risk for things like STIs2 and unplanned pregnancy.3 They are figuring out their boundaries about what to post on social media or send in text messages. They are also facing serious relationship issues like teen dating violence.4 However, when parents have ongoing and open conversations with their teens about relationships and sex, teens are more likely to make healthier choices and go to their parents when they need help.5

While it might not always seem like it, teens actually want their parents to talk with them about relationships and sex!6

Why talk with your teen about media?

From the latest app to music videos to video games, media are everywhere! Teens spend about 12 hours using media each day.7 Some of what they see and hear might be positive, but a lot of it might not be so great. It is not uncommon for teens to listen to popular songs that glamorize abusive relationships or watch movies that make it seem like all teens are having sex. Teens are also facing new challenges such as dealing with requests to send “sexy selfies” and easy access to online pornography.

Without the skills to critically think about media, teens can get some very inaccurate and unhealthy ideas about relationships and sex, which can impact their own expectations and behaviors.8 Parents can teach their teens to think critically about the media, which can help teens be more responsible and savvy media users!

Why Media Aware Parent?

Because parents shouldn’t have to navigate the teen years on their own. Media Aware Parent was designed by experts to empower parents to help their teens to make informed and healthy decisions! Talking with teens about relationships, sex, and media can feel overwhelming, and parents want to have accurate and complete information. That’s why Media Aware Parent contains medically-accurate information and proven techniques to helps parents have effective conversations with their teens about relationships, sex, and media.

And most importantly, it works! In a randomized controlled trial of more than 300 parent-child pairs, Media Aware Parent was shown to improve communication between parents and teens, improve teens’ sexual and relationship health outcomes, and more9.


After parents completed Media Aware Parent, both they and their teens reported improved communication with each other. Parents were able to help their children feel more positive about communicating about sexual health, both within their family and with medical professionals. Furthermore, parents were able to better communicate their values. Teens were less likely to think their parent approved of them being sexually active (an important deterrent of early sexual behavior) and were more aware of their family’s media rules.

Healthy Attitudes

Teens of parents who used Media Aware Parent also felt more positive and confident about using protection if/when they decide to be sexually active. The program also improved media literacy skills for teens and parents. Teens and parents reported more critical thinking about the messages that media send and were less likely to accept unhealthy media messages as a complete source of information.

Program Satisfaction

Finally, Media Aware Parent received rave reviews from parents, who overwhelmingly agreed that it was more helpful, more comprehensive, and easier to use than other available resources to help parents communicate with their teens. A full 98% of parents surveyed said they would recommend Media Aware Parent over other resources. Parents also reported that they learned new things and were comfortable with the online format of the program.

Media Aware Parent is an interactive, easy-to-use, and effective resource for 21st century parents. Go beyond “the talk” and become a Media Aware Parent!

  1. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance–United States, 2017. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-8).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Reported STDs in the United States. Atlanta, GA: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 4, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats14/std-trends-508.pdf – PDF
  3. Finer LB, Zolna MR. Unintended pregnancy in the United States: incidence and disparities, 2006. Contraception. 2011;84(5):478–485.
  4. Breiding, M. J. (2014). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization–National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Surveillance summaries (Washington, DC: 2002), 63(8), 1.
  5. Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Noar, S. M., Nesi, J., & Garrett, K. (2016). Parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent safer sex behavior: a meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 170(1), 52-61.
  6. Hacker, K. A., Amare, Y., Strunk, N., & Horst, L. (2000). Listening to youth: Teen perspectives on pregnancy prevention. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 279-88.
  7. Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D.F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Kaiser Family Foundation: California.
  8. Ward, L. M. (2003). Understanding the role of entertainment media in the sexual socialization of American youth: A review of empirical research. Developmental Review, 23(3), 347-388.
  9. Scull, A., Malik, C., Keefe, E., & Schoemann, A. (2019). Evaluating the short-term impact of Media Aware Parent, a web-based program for parents with the goal of adolescent sexual health promotion. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.