Raising Kids With Healthy Sexual Boundaries

Article Contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC and Founder of Eating Disorder Hope and Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

hands-263341_640There is no doubt that our media today has saturated our culture with messages about sexual promiscuity and misconduct. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the average young person views more than 3000 ads per day on television, the internet, magazines, and billboards [1], many of these with sexual implications.

Sexual images and innuendos have been used in attempt to market and sell a variety of products and services, including:

  • food,
  • prescription drugs,
  • cars,
  • and more

An estimated two-thirds of entertainment programs shown on television contain some form of sexual content, ranging from jokes to various sexual behaviors to actual intercourse.

Implications of Sex in the Media

With many children and adolescents having easy access to various forms of media today, our youth is increasingly exposed to sex at younger and younger ages. What are the implications of this in younger generations?

Research has found that teenagers’ exposure to sexual content in the media may be responsible for earlier onset of sexual intercourse or other sexual activities [2].

Another study completed by the RAND Corporation found that adolescents (ages 12 to 17) who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who were exposed to little such TV [3].

This study also found that youths who watched increased amounts of television containing sexual content were more likely to engage in sexual activities other than intercourse, such as oral sex and “making out” [3]. Television shows that suggested sexual ideas through conversations alone have as much of an impact on youth studied as shows that revealed actual sex scenes [3].

What Can Parents Do to Help?

As a parent or caregiver of a child or adolescent, it can feel like raising a child with healthy sexual boundaries is an impossible feat in our society today. Though it may seem that you are fighting against a strong force of culture, do not let this discourage you from becoming involved in your child’s life and learning ways you can exemplify healthy sexual boundaries and standards.

In the study completed by the RAND Corporation, adolescents were less likely to engage in sexual intercourse if their parents monitored their activities if parents had more education, and if parents did not approve of them having sexual relations [3].

It is encouraging to know that parental involvement in a child’s life is a powerful force to be reckoned with, one that can positively encourage your child in a sea of immorality.

Encouraging Healthy Sexual Boundaries

What are ways that you can encourage healthy sexual boundaries with your child? Here are some practical suggestions that may be helpful to you:

Become involved:

What types of shows and media are your children or teens regularly exposed to? What kind of websites are they visiting? Take the time to learn about the media that they view on a daily basis and effectively “screen” the appropriateness of this content.

If you are unsure if a show or movie is suitable, view the content yourself before approving it for your child. Set limits for screen time or block your child from visiting certain websites on your home computer. This can help over-exposure to sexual content from media sources.

Keep communication open and regular:

Many parents sometimes avoid conversations about sexuality with their child for fear of the subject. However, open and regular communication about sexuality can help your child establish healthy sexual boundaries. Remember, if they do not have these conversations with you, they will likely turn to external sources, such as media, to gain an understanding of sexuality.

If you are unsure how to approach your child or what to discuss in such conversations, there is an abundance of parenting content (books, online materials, etc) that can help guide you through this.

Establish boundaries:

Couple discussing Sexual BoundariesHelp your child develop a healthy understanding of sexuality by establishing boundaries. This is an excellent time to reflect on what values are important to you regarding sexuality and relationships. Discuss appropriateness with peer interactions and how your child can protect his or her body.

Be a healthy role-model:

What models and behaviors are you exemplifying to your child? How do you portray sex in your conversations and actions? The manner in which you convey sexuality will be observed by your child. By modeling healthy and positive perceptions about sex, your child will gain a better understanding of sexuality through your behavior.

Additionally, discuss sexually transmitted diseases with kids and let them know the complications and long term nature of some of these conditions, such as herpes. Help kids to understand that they are responsible for protecting their good health and that the choices they make will have consequences, good or bad.

You Can Be a Good Influence on Your Child

Though it may seem as through you are fighting against a variety of external forces as you attempt to raise your children, be encouraged in knowing that the impact on your child’s life is invaluable.

Be reassured that your love and support will carry your children through many circumstances and build a foundation for them that will withstand a lifetime.


  1. Goodman E. Ads pollute most everything in sight. Albuquerque Journal. June 27, 1999:C3
  2. Collins RL, Elliott MN, Berry SH, et al. Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics.2004;114(3) . Available at: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/114/3/e280
  3. RAND Corporation, “RAND Study Finds Adolescents Who Watch a Lot of TV with Sexual Content Have Sex Sooner”, 2004, http://www.rand.org/news/press/2004/09/07.html

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 24, 2014
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 4, 2018

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