Sexually Active Teens

This article contains statistics on sexually active teens, information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), benefits of abstinence, date rape statistics and help, and tips on dating safety. Keep reading for more education and information on sexually active teens.

Almost half of teens in the United States report being sexually active. Sexually active teens are exposed to dangers such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and negative social and emotional consequences. Also, any teen can become a victim of date rape or other forms of sexual assault, which also have negative effects. 

Each year almost 10 million sexually active teens get an STD, and nearly 1 million teen girls gets pregnant. The only way to avoid pregnancy and STDs is to abstain from sex. Using a condom correctly every time you have sex greatly reduces the risk of pregnancy or STDs. Condoms are widely available for a small cost at stores, or free at some clinics, but a third of sexually active teens still report having unprotected sex.

Any teen who is or has been sexually active, or is thinking of having teen sex, should know:

  • There is no “safe” time to have unprotected sex, when there is not a chance that it will result in pregnancy or transmit an STD; only abstaining from sex is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy or STDs.
  • Teen pregnancy can have serious consequences, especially for the teen girl and her baby, who have a high risk of poverty and health problems. 
  • 1 in 4 teens in the United States gets an STD each year, and by age 25 half of all sexually active young adults have an STD. 
  • STDs can be transmitted through all types of sexual contact, including intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and sometimes even deep kissing. 
  • Some STDs can be treated with antibiotics, but others have no cure and can be deadly.
  • STDs often have no symptoms, so even if a person seems healthy, he or she may still have and spread an STD, perhaps without even knowing it.

Untreated STDs can lead to serious health problems even if they don’t cause symptoms. If you are or have been sexually active, see a doctor to get checked for STDs. If you are a teen girl who suspects she may be pregnant, it is important to seek care immediately from a doctor or health clinic. If possible, tell your parents what you are going through so they can help you.

Abstinence is a healthy and responsible way for teens to deal with their sexuality. All teens are capable of abstaining from sex. Teen abstinence consists of not engaging in sexual intercourse or sex play beyond hugging or light kissing. Even if a teen has already been sexually active, he or she can still chose abstinence by waiting to have sex again. One of the benefits of teen abstinence is it is  the only guaranteed way for a teen to avoid pregnancy, and many teens find that abstinence has other benefits:

  • Over 50 percent of teens chose to be abstinent, and abstinence is becoming more popular
  • 73 percent of teens say they do not think it is embarrassing for a teen to be a virgin 
  • 67 percent of sexually active teens say they wish they had waited to have sex. 
  • Teens wait to become sexually active because they want to stay healthy, pursue other goals in life, have fun relationships without worrying about sex or parenthood, wait until they feel ready for sex or have found their life partner, or have religious or moral beliefs that suggest that they should wait.

Though teen dating should be a fun experience, date rape and other unwanted sexual acts are common problems among teens, and the perpetrators are usually someone the teen knows. Both male and female teens can be victims. According to the CDC, 1 in 12 eighth and ninth graders have experienced date-related sexual violence, and by the time they reach college age, 1 in 4 women have been the victims of rape or attempted rape.

Remember, teens always have the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity, even if they have had sex before.

Some ways teens can stay safe on dates include:

  • Always tell your parents or someone you trust where you’ll be, whom you’ll be with, and when you should be home.
  • Carry a charged cell phone in case you need help or your plans change.
  • Go on group dates, and avoid riding alone with someone in a car.
  • Don’t use drugs or alcohol or hang out with people who do.
  • Don’t drink anything that you didn’t open yourself or that has been out of your control even for a minute - it could contain date rape drugs.
  • Don’t date people who are a lot older than you or who try to pressure you into things you don’t want to do.
  • Practice saying no and getting away from situations that make you uncomfortable.

Teens who are the victims of rape should get help immediately - before showering or changing clothes. Tell a parent or another trusted adult if possible, and go to a doctor or emergency room. Teen victims of sexual assault may be afraid to talk about what has happened to them, or may come to think that they deserve to be abused. Teens should know that sexual assault and rape victims are never at fault for what has happened to them, and that counseling can help with the guilt, depression, and anger that they may feel.


SHARE: Sexuality, Health, and Relationship Education, Teen Central [online], “Abstinence” [online]

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy [online]

Center for Disease Control: Healthy Youth! Sexual Risk Behaviors [online], “Your Guide to Sexually Transmitted Diseases” [online]

Center for Disease Control: Adolescent Reproductive Health [online]

AllRefer Health, “Adolescent Pregnancy” [online], “Where do Kids learn about Sex?” [online]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Family Guide: Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, Dating Violence Common Among Teens [online]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Annual Report 1997-1998, June 1998 [online]

Related Article: Teen Pregnancy Facts >>