Too Many Teenage Girls Don’t Understand Sex

And what happens then? They get pregnant.

Maybe I don’t remember what it’s like being a teenager, but God help me if I was this clueless: A new government study found that an overwhelming number of sexually-active teenage girls were surprised when they got pregnant. About half admitted they weren’t using any birth control whatsoever, and a third said they opted for no birth control because they didn’t believe they could actually get pregnant, anyway.

Has MTV’s Teen Mom taught these kids nothing?

More data of note: Of the ones who used birth control, 20 percent said they were using a pill or patch, while 24 percent said they were using condoms. Only 13 percent said they didn’t use birth control because they had trouble obtaining it.

This particular study didn’t go into why these girls thought they couldn’t get pregnant, but other studies that have looked at the issue report a range of misconceptions: teens believing they can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex, or that they’re safe if they only have sex at certain times of the month, or even that they’re sterile.

The good news is that the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. hit a 70-year low just last week. But it’s sobering to realize that we adults are clearly not doing our parts: making sure kids know exactly what the consequences of unprotected sex actually are, and clearing up any myths or misconceptions. We’ve written before about the need for comprehensive sex education in Philly schools—our teen STD rate, which is three times higher than the national average, is proof enough of that—but this study gives the argument even more weight.

And if (or in this case, when) the schools fail, we adults have to do our duty and pick up the slack. At the risk of sounding like one of those corny PSAs, having a one-on-one birds-and-the-bees talk could make all the difference. Sure, it’s awkward. But if kids are going to form ideas one way or the other about sex and how it works, wouldn’t you want them to have, um, the right information?

Because, clearly, Teen Mom isn’t hacking it.