Family First: Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation for teens giving birth

From Katy Perry songs to the provocativemagazine covers of teenage stars and the topics discussed regularly in teenarticles, sex is definitely a big part of the teenage environment.

Most schools and families start talkingwith kids about sex and bodily changes in the fifth grade. According to a new survey on Arkansas teens that is agood thing.

Giving your children purity rings is oneway families approach the topic of sex with their kids. Research, however, shows teens with purityrings are just as likely as others to engage in premarital sex and, they'reless likely to use protection.

Brad Planey with the Arkansas Departmentof Health, parents need to realize, many kids are actively experimenting. "By the ninth grade, surveys show that 44% ofour teens have had sexual intercourse in Arkansasand by the 12th grade, it's more like 64%."

More sexual activity means there's moreteens at risk. The teen birth rate in Arkansas is 4th in thenation.

Out of the teen mothers interviewed, morethan half say they weren't using any kind of birth control when they gotpregnant, and up to a third say they didn't think they could get pregnant.

"There's a lot of misinformation," saidPlaney. "A lot of teens who becomepregnant do not know they can become pregnant the first time."

Becoming a mother during the teenageyears can close a lot of doors for both parent and child.

"The child of a teen is more likelyto be born prematurely, is more likely to be born with low, birth-weight, ismore likely to have health problems, is more likely to have academicachievement problems in school, is more likely as an adult or a teen to beincarcerated and is more likely to have a child as a teen," said Planey.

Margo Bushmiaer, Coordinator of HealthServices for the Little Rock School District says thedistrict averages about 130 pregnant students a year. That number hasn't changed much in the past10 years, but school nurses are seeing a dramatic increase in the number ofstudents with sexually transmitted diseases.

"Sadly, there are some epidemics,"said Bushmiaer. "Chlamydia is anepidemic in our state and even HIV is hitting our 25-year olds. The numbers are rising, so you know thosechildren, those young adults contracted that disease in their teens, in their youngeryears."

According to the Centers for DiseaseControl, one in four teenage girls will be infected with a STD by the time theygraduate from high school. EricHenderson, assistant principal at Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School and father of five, used to teach sexeducation to seventh graders. Hebelieves parents definitely need to follow up on that conversation at home.

"They know more than you think theyknow, but not all of the information is good information," said Henderson. "So, you want to be able to steer them in thecorrect way to deal with that particular subject and deal with themselves anddeal with those people they're going to partner with."

All of theexperts KATV spoke with agreed on one thing, to keep your kids safe you have tokeep the lines of communication open. They suggest continually talking to them about their relationships andletting them know that no matter what, they can come to you for advice andhelp.