It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and 48 hours after their first hellos, 20 teenagers lounged with their new best friends. Inside their parents, 20 moms and dads from across America, commiserated over their own growing pains.
Brittany's dad: “I wonder, Katie, sometimes if our kids are more comfortable with their sexuality than maybe we are.”
Ariel: “We don't have little kids any more, it's a bummer.”
Their little kids seemed to have grown up overnight and, sadly, they no longer know everything about them.
Sam's mom: “When you're driving car pool you can eavesdrop and you can hear conversations. And when they start driving themselves, you lose that information. And they call each other on their cell phones in their room with the door closed.”
Katie Couric: “Or text message, apparently when they're older.”
Sam's mom: “Exactly.”
Now their children are turning to friends, who might lead them astray. Most parents assume that kids face a significant amount of peer pressure and they're right.
According to the NBC News/PEOPLE Magazine survey of 13 to 16 year olds, 66 percent of young teens say there is pressure to have sex by a certain age.
Brittany: “I'm 13 and I'm from Oregon. If you don't have sex, a lot of people get really mean and say that you're really straight and boring.”
If peer pressure is one threat, the parents were also concerned about sexual messages that are almost impossible to monitor.
Gordon's Mom: “They're exposed to so much information and content. Even in innuendo, on what you think are innocent little TV shows, that their idea of sex is trivialized. And they don't take it as seriously as we'd like them to.”
Kameron's Mom: “And some of the shampoo commercials, also. Because you have a shampoo commercial that sounds like a person having an orgasm.”
Couric: “ “Right, right, Herbal Essence, hello you're right.”
Galen's Dad: “As far as the media and the Internet, the cat's out of the bag. It can't be put back in. It starts in the home. If it's a stormy day, you tell your kid to dress for the weather. You’ve got to prepare your kids for the world they're going to step into.”
It’s a world completely foreign to Tsetan's father, a single dad from Tibet, who like other parents here can't understand today's music.
Tsetan's Dad: “I say what kind of music is this? And they say this is rap. I said that's not music. Music has notation. It goes up and up and down. I think that's not music. It must be crap music.”
Parents have always had trouble relating to their teens' music, but has any previous generation had to contend with "the new third base"?
Couric: “ “Who is concerned about kids having oral sex as early as 12, 13, and 14?”
Erin's Mom: “I am because I don’t think they're emotionally ready for it. it's not based on relationships. It’s based on someone's needs. And kids that age, you know I teach sixth grade. They’re not ready for it to happen. It's too young.”
Ariel: “I actually don't buy the idea that all this is on the rise. I actually think that people are just talking about it more. Oral sex, I mean the fact that our kids talk about it, I think that's what is shocking or new.”
We're not sure if oral sex among young teens is on the rise. It's not a trend that has been closely followed. Remember our poll shows that seven out of 10 kids say they have not had oral sex or intercourse? What bothers most parents? It’s all in the attitude.
Danny's Dad: “It's the casualness, in the sense that it's just for friends. I may not have romantic feelings for the person, but I'll do it for him.”
Clearly, the days of waiting until adolescence to explain the birds-and-the-bees are over, and parents need to talk about a lot more than where babies come from.
Couric: “ “Who among you feel completely comfortable talking about every aspect of sexuality with your children? Counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. Nine. That's not bad.”
But are their kids hearing them?
85 percent of the parents surveyed for our poll say they speak to their children often about sex and relationships. But only 44 percent of their teens say they have those same conversations.
Couric: “ “How much do you talk to your parents about what you're doing sexually?”
Group: “Zero. None.”
Couric: “ “For those of you who can't talk to your parents, how come?”
Sable: “Like my mom, she doesn't always make it easy. She'll be like, why do you? Why, why, why? And I can't always take her criticism even though it's in a good way.”
Amie: “Some things you have to keep private to yourself.”
Maia: ”It's like, the judgment thing. Like I don't want her to put judgments on me. More, I don’t want her to put judgments on my boyfriend, cause then it'll limit my freedom with him.”
Couric: “ “What advice would you give to parents, because I think all parents out there, myself included, we want to have a close and open and honest relationship with our children. and we want to help them make the right choices.”
Kameron: “I think it's up to the parent to dispel and to, you know go over everything with their child and say, 'you know, you shouldn’t call people this, or have some self respect. It’s one of those things where a man needs to teach a son that being a man is not sleeping around. and a woman needs to teach her daughter to have self-respect. It doesn't necessarily mean to limit what she wears, but to have self-respect.”
Gordon: “You can advise them of the negative consequences and you can tell them why you think it's a bad idea. But if all you're going to be is 'absolutely not, you're grounded, you can't leave the house, you don't do this,’ they're not going to come to you.”
Couric: “What if some of your behavior needs to be judged?”
Brittany: “If I told my parents that like I was going to have sex, they wouldn't be 'oh have fun, honey, here's the condom.' It's not like they're going to say that, but then they're not going to like sit there and yell at me and make me feel bad though. They would talk to me about it and explain the consequences to me.”
Sable: “But how many parents do that?”
Sam: “Well, I was going to say it's hard for a kid to volunteer that kind of information. So it's important to create an environment where they can ask a kid, and the kid can feel comfortable if not telling everything, telling something.”
Courtni: “My mom knows everything that I've done with anyone, because I know that she will support me. Even if she doesn't approve of it, I know that she's still there and she cares. And that's the kind of parent I think every kid needs.”
What's more, these teens say parents shouldn't be afraid to be upfront about what they did or didn't do when they were young.
Galen: ”Everyone says it's so bad when people say like parents are like, 'Oh don’t do what I do, do what I say," like parents are trying to have a double standard. But honestly everybody makes mistakes. You should learn from their mistakes.”
Sam: “Parents should share their knowledge and their wisdom and their experience with the kids. Because that's who you're going to listen to.”
Kameron: “And that's stronger than any message you could get from a music video or anything.”
Galen: “Parents don’t know it, but I think they do have a lot more influence on us than anything else.”