Many millennials and Generation Z’s have traded in committed relationships for casual encounters.

Of course, to parents, this can be terrifying. Long gone are the days of “courting”, a phone call to the home phone to book a second date and an overall feeling of confidence in the supervision you can provide.

With dating apps, social media and cell phones, dating has become more casual, and it has become more difficult to supervise your child.

Where 1-2 teens would fall pregnant in high school 30 years ago, now you can count on dozens.

Part of the culprit? Hookup culture.

What is it? Friends with benefits (FWB). Hooking up. Casual sex.

Who is doing it? Sort of everyone.

… well, not actually. But it is running rampant in today’s society.

The statistics are alarming: Children are losing their virginity younger than previous generations. In 2015, the three best-recorded STI’s reached a record high.

Despite our reluctance to acknowledge the fact this is happening, it is.

Being the nature of today’s society, it’s a tough thing to fight. Schools have employed sex education – meaning most children are aware of the consequences of unprotected sex. However, STI’s are still on the rise and age of losing virginity is always on the decline.

The theory behind the pandemic of casual sex and friends with benefits? Gen Z’s are busy. They find themselves enrolled in multiple extracurricular activities and more classes. Universities are harder to get accepted into, so teenagers are working harder and are more focused than ever. What’s less of a time commitment than a relationship?

Casual encounters.

Despite this theory, there are likely many other factors that play into the upcoming trend: Sex is EVERYWHERE. It’s daily. It’s in music, on TV shoes, on movies, on social media. It’s impossible to go through a day without running into nudity, innuendos or sex.

That, in itself, has had many positive effects on society. However, it’s had a negative impact as well.

Though openness with sexuality is often welcomed with adults, there is a specific challenge you’re facing when dealing with children (other than the alarming statistics). The truth is, teenagers form connection differently. Sex can easily tamper with emotions.

As a parent, it’s a tight line to walk: You don’t want to shame your child or close the lines of communication. However, you don’t want to give the green light for reckless sexual activity either.

So how do you find the balance?

Be Honest

You don’t have to hold yourself on an unrealistic pedestal. You can be honest about the experiences you have had and what you’ve taken from them.

Sometimes it actually is better to learn from somebody else’s mistakes than your own. Be transparent.

By being honest about specific experiences you’ve had, you create an ally out of yourself.

Encourage Open Communication

It’s easy for both parent and child to shy away from difficult conversations. For example, sex. It’s a tough thing to discuss. However, change the stigma around it.

Ask questions! Be interested and engaged when your child is opening up to you. Set the tone of a safe place.

The best place any child can get their information is from people they trust. You can ensure it’s factual, correct, and adheres to the standards that you hope they follow.

Discussions about on-going teenage issues such as sex, relationships, drugs, bullying, and depression aren’t one-shot conversations. Ideally, you would ultimately open the lines of communication about it so that you can touch base and reconvene when necessary.

However, with that being said…

Don’t Shame

Of course, you’re going to have to discipline your child when they do something you disagree with. However, keep in mind that they are living in a different generation and filled with different thoughts, experiences and feelings than you are.

Instead of riddling them with shame and closing those lines of communications, use the opportunity to get to know them better.

You can disagree with their decisions without blatantly shaming them.

Keep An Eye On Your Children’s Friends

This can be considered broad, but it might be essential to keep in the back of your mind. If your child is having a difficult time opening up to you about uncomfortable situations, then ask about their friends.

If your child’s best friends are engaging in casual sex, then it’s likely a good idea to keep a closer eye on your child.

That isn’t to say there aren’t children who are surrounded by specific behaviour who never engage in said behaviour – there definitely are! However, by getting to know their friends better, it may (at least) trigger the need for certain conversations to take place.

Encourage Respect for Oneself and Others

You can’t be a fly on the wall, and unfortunately, you can’t control every move your child makes.

Always encourage them to be respectful of themselves and of other people.

Written by Celina Dawdy