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Teens need guidance in relationships

By Nathan Rice

The picture before my eyes made me feel like I saw something that I was never meant to see. It was displayed for all to see, but I felt like I had walked in on a private moment.

A female sat on the edge of a bed while a male was still under the covers using a crumpled blanket to cover most of his bare chest. The picture had no caption, but the nature of the image made it sensual. It was awkward because I knew the people in the photograph. I would usually feel embarrassed looking at people I know in such a suggestive photo, but this picture made me upset instead of embarrassed. I was upset because the people in the picture were 12 years old and 14 years old.

I discussed the birds and the bees with them not too long ago, but all I could do was offer advice and set rules for the times that we are together. I am not the father of either one of them, so my ability to control what happens is limited. I was disappointed in the kids, but I was upset with their parents. The kids should have never been in that position, and the fact that neither of their parents were upset about the picture made me sad.

When I asked the young man in the picture about the photo, he said, “We were only watching TV.” That may have been the case, but that didn’t make his decision a wise one. I shared some things with him and encouraged him to reconsider his choices.

I hope he makes better decisions, but the decision should have never been his to make. I know there are differing views on sex and sexuality, but can we not all agree that kids need our guidance and protection in this area of their lives?

We, as a society, have deemed that kids have not yet matured enough to do many things. We place a ban on driving until a certain age, and we then allow them behind the wheel only after lengthy instruction and guidance. We do not allow them to consume alcohol or use tobacco products. There are many things we forbid based on age.

We do this because there are many things that they are not yet ready to determine on their own. They may be growing quickly as they hit the teen years, but the transition from child to adult takes a while.

Sex and sexuality have caused problems for even the most mature adults, so why would we think they can handle making this important decision on their own? Their bodies are growing faster than their brains, so we must set the rules. It’s irresponsible to leave the choice of what is proper and what is not appropriate to them. Set the rules — such as no sharing of a bed — and enforce them.

Likewise, it’s our responsibility to protect them to the best of our ability. No responsible parent would leave a loaded gun lying around the house, but many parents think they can leave their teens to their own devices when it comes to dating and relationships. This is foolish, and it places our children in danger.

Parents, I urge you to set rules for your children when it comes to their relationships. They aren’t ready to make these decisions for themselves, and the choices they make may place them in dangerous situations. It’s your job to guide and protect them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.