For Kaden, a family movie night can quickly turn into a very uncomfortable situation.
"Midway through the movie, an adult scene came on," explains Kaden. "It was really hard to watch, and I think my parents paused the video and just told me to get out. So I left."
Kaden was watching Deadpool, which includes a sex scene. While in retrospect, watching an R-rated movie with his parents might not have been the best choice, for teens like Kaden, trying to avoid these awkward moments has become increasingly difficult. A survey conducted by the Radio 101 class showed that Euphoria, Outer Banks, Big Mouth, and Dahmer are some of the most-watched shows among teens. All of these shows are available on streaming platforms, and all of them include R-rated content. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO are not bound by FCC guidelines on profanity and nudity as the network stations are.
According to Christy Buchanan, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, these moments when a sex scene comes up on TV can actually be used to approach otherwise difficult topics.
"One of the biggest pieces of advice for parents is to watch movies and shows with adolescents," says Buchanan. "And when those things come up, you know, 'What do you think about that?' You know ... to use those as a springboard for perhaps more lighthearted conversation about what's going on."
Buchanan and other experts agree that one of the strategies to ease the pain of the conversation about sex with teenagers is to first get comfortable with the topic yourself.
"To get your own questions answered, if you have questions about it," explains Buchanan. "And to lean on resources, but basically, start early with kids being upfront and direct."
Some other tips from the Center for Parent & Teen Communication include:
- Start talking early and keep the conversation going
- Share about your values around healthy sexuality more than mechanics
- Include topics about mutual respect and safety
- Don't make assumptions