But then we became parents ourselves and discovered that talking about it isn't so easy. We've all heard the horror stories of kids growing up way too fast, having oral sex at ridiculously young ages. As a parent, I'm as confused and overwhelmed as you might be. And like so many of you, I want to lay down the foundation that will help my children make the right choices.
When they're 30 -- just kidding. Of course, it's your decision, but ideally we'd like you to look through this special report with your teens. It could jumpstart a conversation that might be long overdue. On a tranquil Saturday morning in Florida, teenagers from across America traded stories that would send any parent into a tail spin. I'm behind these girls in lunch line.
I was in sixth grade. I was like, are you serious? Their destination was the sun-drenched island of Key Biscayne. There, at a waterfront home, NBC News brought together 20 teens, kids between the ages of 13 and 17, with diverse economic backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and viewpoints. They all had one thing in common. They were willing to tackle the controversial and sensitive question that makes adults, especially parents, fumble: What's really going on with teens and sex?
Most of the kids I know, they don't make it past their 16th birthday without losing their virginity. I think oral sex usually starts younger than sex. You don't want to just have sex with the first person you think you're in love with. You need to wait to find out what is love before you can have sex.
Of course, there were ground rules for this weekend in paradise: The teens were constantly supervised and at night, they bunked with their parents at a hotel. But they were under strict instructions to have innocent fun. A few had come with friends from home.
Most were complete strangers, though you never would have guessed it. Within hours after meeting they had made themselves at home. We were surprised at how comfortable they were in front of the cameras, how quickly they bonded, how swiftly sexual tension filled the air. It was a glimpse at the mysterious world of teenagers, a world that seems like a secret society -- at least to most parents. I wish I could talk to my parents about how hard it is to be a teenager because it's a lot harder than they think.
And they think school is like that. But I don't think my parents could walk a day in my shoes. To walk in their shoes, you need to learn their language, terms like "hooking up," "friends with benefits" and the bases these days are a whole new ball game.
First would be like kissing; second base would be like making out; third would be, like oral sex. Using scientific methods, the survey provides some of the first real numbers on the sexual attitudes and behaviors of young teens.
That number jumps to 41 percent when kids reach 15 and I mean it's been the wild one. And not surprisingly, the generation gap still exists. In fact, it may be wider than ever. But according to our poll, half of the parents of those teens think their kids have done nothing more than kiss. I think they're too young. You know the 60's and the free love. That was college-aged kids.
It wasn't junior high kids. Beaver was the son. What do you all think when you see movies like that and TV shows like that? And things that portray sex like that? But in the 50s they say I love you and then they get married and they have little Betty running around. But some teens say the images are so ubiquitous, they don't even faze them. It's just like you find yourself singing along to it, but not really understanding what you're singing. It's on TV so often.
Every TV channel has commercials with like half-naked women nowadays. When pressed, many of these kids admitted they are shaped by what they see and hear.
You know young men who are going to look up to these rappers as role models, are going to start, in my opinion, treating their girlfriends this way.
Even if you don't think you're influenced by it at all. Everything you look at has sex has either girls or sexy thing, sexy clothing. It's going to subconsciously affect you in some way.
No one really knows the impact today's culture is having on the way today's teens behave, but one thing is clear, at least from our group. They're definitely not shy about talking about sex. I don't think oral sex should be expected in a relationship, but unfortunately, I think it is expected in a relationship.