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Sex Education and Kids

Beyond the Birds-and-Bees Basics

The goal is to inform and protect your children while making them feel good — not ashamed — of their bodies. Teach young kids about topics like:

  • Privacy. Children need to understand from the time that they're very young that no one is allowed to touch their private parts unless Mommy or Daddy says it's OK (at the doctor's, for example), and that the child should tell a trusted adult about any such touching. Kids sometimes play doctor, or "I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours" — that's common because children are naturally curious about each other's bodies — but let them know in a gentle way, directs Westheimer, that other forms of play are better because they respect everyone's privacy.
  • Safe Surfing. Kids have to know that when they surf the Internet, they shouldn't "talk" to someone unknown to them any more than they would if a stranger approached them on the street.

Beyond talking the talk, you can take action to limit your young child's exposure to inappropriate sexual messages. Take these steps for starters:

  • Monitor the television shows and movies your kids watch so they don't become overstimulated and desensitized to sexual acts; keep any erotic tapes, magazines and books out of little ones' reach; and call your cable company about locking out channels unsuitable for youngsters.
  • Go to or for information and filtering software to help block children's exposure to inappropriate Internet materials.

Though schools often include sex education in the curriculum — they might impart some information about AIDS and pregnancy, for example — parents, too, should be involved with educating their children about these issues of physical health, and about the moral aspects of sexual behavior. Prepare your middle school-aged kids for puberty so they're not caught with their proverbial pants down — offer your child the information in small doses, experts recommend, rather than in one "big talk."

According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Your pre-teen son should know that:

  • His penis and testicles will start to increase in size and his scrotum will change color.
  • His erections will become more frequent during puberty, and he may have nocturnal emissions, or wet dreams.
  • He may experience a growth spurt and his voice will begin to change.