Empower Teens to Make Healthy Life Choices

By Aaron Ng
24 Apr, 2016

A version of this article appeared in The Straits Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Empower teens to make healthy life choices'.

It is worrying that the number of teenage boys who have visited prostitutes is on the rise, suggesting that it has become more common for teenage boys to pay for sex ("More teenage boys paying for sex: Study "; April 10).

Among the reasons listed is easy access to pornography online. Repeated viewing of pornography can eventually lead a person to act out what is seen in pornography, which can include seeking out prostitutes, voyeurism and compulsive promiscuity.

Hence, it is increasingly important for parents to teach their children how to be discerning and safe in their media consumption.

We encourage parents to set boundaries on Internet consumption and material, using both Internet safety tools (some of which are available for free), as well as exercising proper parental authority and guidance.

As with other aspects of parenting, it is important that parents introduce their children to the media-hyped world with age-appropriate guidance, where proper responsibility and self-control can be nurtured.

Other reasons cited for teenage boys turning to prostitutes are low self-esteem, and peer influence and pressure ("Allure of paid sex for teenage boys"; April 10).

It is important to be concerned about the long-term emotional and psychological effects of early sexual experience on these boys.

A study has revealed that around two-thirds of sexually experienced teenagers said they regretted having sex that early and wished they had waited longer.

Other studies show that feelings of sexual regret have been linked to negative psychological health, such as lower life satisfaction, loss of self-worth, depression and physical health problems.

Thus, relationship and sexuality programmes that help teenagers to understand themselves and the opposite gender better can enhance their self-esteem, enable them to resist unhealthy peer pressure, and encourage them to make healthy life choices.

Such programmes empower healthy behaviour instead of merely addressing behavioural problems.

This will help young people to avoid regret in the future, ensuring their holistic well-being in their youth and adulthood.

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