Beyond the standard “birds and the bees” talk, it’s important for parents to recognize the dangers of sexual assault and teach kids to respond appropriately in uncomfortable situations.

With the rise of the #metoo movement, consent has also come to the forefront of conversations around sex. Making sure your teenagers understand what it means and how it’s conveyed is extremely important.

Karen Farst, child abuse pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, offered her insight on how to address these important topics and what parents should be aware of.

Ages 5-10

 It can be normal for kids to touch their private parts to stimulate or self soothe, but it should be done in private and should not involve force or coercion with others.

Teach children that parts of the body that are covered by bathing suit are “private.”

It’s not enough to teach “stranger danger.” Sexual abuse offenders are known to the child/family in more than 80 percent of cases.

Have plain, open conversations about body safety and teach that it’s never OK for someone to ask a kid to keep a secret that is hurting them or someone else.

Ages 11-14

Point out examples of kindness and respect in relationships from media as well as examples of unkind and bullying behavior.

Role play with your child how to say “no” when someone is asking them to do something that feels wrong.

Know what your child is doing online and with their phone apps. Emphasize to never agree to meet someone that they have met online and do not already know personally.

Pay attention to whether an adult in your child’s life is singling them out for attention or meeting with them alone.

Ages 15-18

Two out of five teenagers will be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection during teen years.

Encourage teens to “expect respect” in relationships and emphasize that someone who tries to coerce or bully them into having sex does not truly love them.

Teach that consent means both people agree to what is happening; not hearing “no” does not imply consent and people who are intoxicated/passed out cannot consent.

Teens will often delay disclosure of sexual assault due to shame, fear of not being believed and fear of being blamed for the assault.


There are approximately


registered sex offenders in Arkansas.1



of all victims of sexual assault are under 18.2


of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.2

Sources: 1Arkansas Crime Information Center, 2018; 2Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault