Family First: Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation for teens givi - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

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

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


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


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


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


More sexual activity means there's more teens at risk.  The teen birth rate in Arkansas is 4th in the nation. 


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


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


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


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


Margo Bushmiaer, Coordinator of Health Services for the Little Rock School District says the district averages about 130 pregnant students a year.  That number hasn't changed much in the past 10 years, but school nurses are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of students with sexually transmitted diseases.


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


According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four teenage girls will be infected with a STD by the time they graduate from high school.  Eric Henderson, assistant principal at Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School and father of five, used to teach sex education to seventh graders.  He believes parents definitely need to follow up on that conversation at home.


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


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