Teen sexuality on TV: Lessons for parents

There are a couple of TV shows right now that deal explicitly with teen sexuality: “Sex Education” and “Big Mouth” on Netflix, and Hulu’s “Pen15.” Do these shows provide valuable sex education for teens? Should parents be involved in some way if their kid wants to watch them?

Shafia Zaloom teaches sex ed to middle and high school students at the Urban School in San Francisco, and consults on “Big Mouth.”

She tells Press Play that parents should watch the shows their kids are watching, so they can talk about them.

“For kids to talk with open honesty, it's really important that we create a context that's free of ultimatums and judgment, guilt and shame,” she says.

She also recommends that parents use “I noticed” language. For example, parents can say to their kids, “I noticed you're watching this show. I was really curious. I watched a couple of episodes. I'd love to know what you think about XY and Z. Could you believe it when this went down? Would did you think about that? What are your favorite parts? Are there any parts that confuse you?”

It’s important for parents to point their kids to medically accurate resources too, Zaloom notes. For example, Planned Parenthood, and online guides such as Sex 101 and Scarleteen.

But what if kids don’t want to tell their parents they’re watching these shows? Often, they’re in their rooms and on their devices alone.

Well, parents are the ones who set up and pay for these media accounts, Zaloom points out. So they can check viewing histories of each user/profile.

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Yael Even Or



  • Shafia Zaloom - Health Educator at the Urban School in San Francisco