What research Tells Us About Widespread Teenage Pregnancy- KNEC Says Its Porn Sites

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Photo by Jodi Bieber for Al Jazeera America

Statistics provided by the Population Reference Bureau  indicate that nearly 18 percent of adolescent Kenyan girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are mothers. Pregnancy at such a young age means their opportunities for economic and educational growth are limited.

The rate of pregnancy seems to rise year by year, and 2018 has been a host to most severe cases. For instance, Kitui County recorded 110 cases of teenage pregnancy while Kilifi recorded the highest number with over 13,000.

What’s the governent reaction?

Kenya Review understands that KNEC proposes measures to shut porn sites in Kenya. This is according to the Chairman of Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) Chairman Prof. George Magoha.

“I would like to urge those in authority and power to consider blocking pornographic sites from our internet space,” – Prof Magoha

Sure enough, Prof. Magoha may be right since today’s teenagers are more connected than ever, given the high proliferation of smartphones. In Kenya alone, over 60% of Kenyans own internet-enabled, thanks to the influx of affordable phones.

This explains why an average man in the 21st century is believed to spend 40 minutes a week watching pornography.

What’s more, a study for the Institute of Public Policy Research think-tank found that watching pornography was “common” by the time teenagers reach their mid-teen.

As these teenagers watch explicit pictures and videos through their internet-enabled phones, they are unaware that watching pornography will affect their brains, relationships and studies later in life.

But how does watching pornography affect sexual activeness?

There is no consesus among researchers as regards to the effect of pornography on sexual activeness. For example, Psychotherapist Paula Hall notes that pornography can lower sexual activeness since it creates erection problems and makes it more difficult for young people to have sexual relationships.

As argued by Hall, teenagers’s brain are still young and malleable, hence exposure to pornography makes them to develop “sexual templates” that are integrated with online pornographic images and videos.

The twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever, especially among young people

And when these teenagers are introduced to a ‘real body’ of an opposite sex, their bodies do not know how to respond since they are already fixed on very high, constant stimulation aided by pornographic content.

Other psychologists beg to differ, and think on the same perspective as Prof. Magoha, arguing that exosure to pornographic content enhances suxual excitement among young people.

For instance, a recent study found out that watching porn can stimulate sexual desire. Findings of this study was garnered by asking 280 men to record their porn viewing habits while tracking their libido.

The men found that there was a positive correlation between the amount of time spent viewing porn and the desire to have sex. Those who watched more than two hours of porn per week were found to have the highest level of arousal.

Sexual arousal appears to rise as the hours spent watching pornography increases (Graphs: Journal of Medical Science)

Based on the findings of this study, children and young teenagers become emotionally confused by the sexual videos they find online, and makes them feel pressured to have sex early – and this can lead to teenage pregnancy.

This study confirms Prof.Magoha’s fears; that increasing consuption of pornography among Kenyan teenagers is the major contributor to teenage pregnancy in the country.

Verdict

Prof. Magoha believes banning pornographic sites can help reduce rates of teenage pregnancy in Kenya. Even though some studies confirm that watching explict content can increase sexual desire, other studies disagree and believe pornographic addiction leads to poor sexual life.

But is important to note that the Kenyan law only prohibits obscenity and child pornography. It is an attempt by the state to prevent this material to fall into the hands of minors.

It is unfair for the government touse the protection-of-minors rationale to shield adults from viewing indecent material. Of course the call for the ban of porn sites will be attributed to “moral reasons”, but this is sort of theocratic morality that has nothing to do with the actual compassion for the fellow citizens.

In addition, schools have put in place regulations that ban the use of mobile phones and religious organizations in schools are equiped with resources to ensure learners are brought up in a morally upright society.

The question becomes what are the major factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy.

Risk Factors for Teenage Pregancy

  • Media

Shows in media is a major influencer of teen sexual behaviors. Glamorous television shows and magazines promote shots of ‘famous’ pregnant girls who despite their conditions, are succesful in life. Some teens decide to get pregnat in order to emulate these stars.

  • Reproductive Ignorance

Teenagers are still in their early phases of life, and still do not have an indepth health literacy regarding issues such as the use of contraceptions, their sexuality, and reproductive biology. This explains why P2 is the most commonly used contraceptives in Kenya, due to a common knowledge that is prevents pregancy.

Nonetheless, the drug is clearly prescribed and described as an “emergency pill” and should be taken as soon as possible; but due to ignorance, many young Kenyans take it after the 72nd hour, hence the lesser the chances of it working.

Many youngsters are sexually active without proper education on the matter and most times they run for morning-after pills after unprotected sex. Poor use of Postinor-2 leads to failure

Various possible reasons for low health literacy as regards to sexual education may be that parents in Kenya play a very small role in transfering such information to their children. Also, Kenyan parents are often reluctant to discuss sexual matters with their children.

While abstinence is the most widely discussed sexual topic, condoms and contraception were rarely discussed.

  • Peer Pressure and Egocentrism

Egocentrism and peer pressure takes centre-stage in adolescent lives. A teenager may be complaining over some pimples on her face while believing that everyone is noticing these and will laughing at her.

The speculation of an ‘Imaginary Audience’ is particularly strong during the teen years and is a risk factor for teenage pregancy. For intance, a girl may be imagining she is the Queen bee’ in her school, and may want to have sex with the guys in her school who famous, such as athletes as this will make her the envy of all the most glamorous girls in her school.

Even though teen pregnancy rates have become low in the last few decades, peer pressure continues to influence teens to involve in a relationship or sexual activity.

Another teen fantasy called ‘The Personal Fable’ is related to peer pressure, whereby teens think of themselves as impervious to the ills of others. They boast infront of others as risk takers, engaging in activities that lead to distressing, dangerous, even fatal, consequences.

Teens assume that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are something that happens to others but not to them. 

  • Parental Style

Parenting style is seen as a contributing factor to early sexual initiation and to teenage pregnancy. The type of family structure that most commonly problematic is single-parent, female headed households. 

Children from homes run by teenage mothers have to face almost insurmountable obstacles in life. These incidences increase their susceptibility to teenage pregnancy

Studies have confirmed that teenagers from single parent households are more likely to become pregnant before their 18th birthday, and that ‘family disorganization’ is associated with teenage pregnancy. 

Further, parents that value positive relationships within the nuclear and extended family reduces the chances of a younger woman becoming a parent. These relationships are ‘maintained’ by shared values such as  responsbility, self control, and positive sexual values (seen as delaying sexual intercourse until marriage).

Communication patterns promoted by parents also play a role in teenage pregnancy. Adolescents that come from families with closed communication are more likely to develop attitudes condusive to early child bearing than those coming from families with open communication patterns.

On the other hand, autocratic parents increase the likelihood of teenage pregnancy among their children.Autocratic parents do not encourage autonomy and this results in risky sexual activities of their teenage daughters and sons due to communication breakdowns and poor responsivity to sexuality issues.

  • Socioeconomic Status

There is a strong association between poor economic status and teenage preganancy. This can be evidenced by the 13,000 cases of teenage pregnancy in Kilifi; a county  with a poverty rate of 71.4% which is high than the national average of 45.9%.

The high rates of poverty in Kilifi increases the suceptibility of teenagers to risk factors of pregnancy at an early age. For example, the poverty forces parents to look for whatever source of income is available, and this lowers their intrest in the lives of their children, thus leading to teenage pregancies.

Poverty forces young girls engage in unprotected sex with older men

Also, poverty forces young girls to sell sex to older women, especially tourists visiting coastal areas. Teenage girls establish bargaining roles ith sex tourists, but they are in poor bargaining positions, and may thus accept risks such as unprotected sex for more money.

What Can Parents, Governemnt, and Schools Do

  1. Provide sexuality information

From an early age, children should become comfortable with the names of all their body parts and also become comfortably knowledgeable about body part similarities and differences between boys and girls.

Also, teachers in health and in social studies classes need to tecah teenagers how to respond to peer pressures.  They need to empower teenagers with clear and specific understandings of how the reproductive system works, what contraceptives are, and what is the efficacy of each contraceptive method

2. Reduce Exposure Of Alcohol and Drugs

Use of drugs can contribute towards risky sexual behaviors. For teens, alcohol impairs the memory system in the hippocampus and severely limits the ability of the frontal lobes to carry out thoughtful and logical thinking.

Teachers in a health course for teens need to explain clearly how different the brain is when a teen drinks heavily.

3. Encourage early parental nurturing care

Children who have been tenderly cared for and had their distress signals promptly and accurately attended to during the early years are then less likely as teens to be vulnerable to pressures for unwanted/ unsafe sex.

4. School principals need to enforce firm anti-bullying codes with specific attention to actions of sexual bullying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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