Teenagers can, in fact, make some mature decisions when it comes to sex.
The latest government data show that 8 of 10 teen males used a condom the first time they had sex, an increase of 9 percentage points since 2002.
The findings, released yesterday, come from the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2006 and 2010. The data were gathered from in-person interviews with 4,600 teenagers across the country.
The trend toward greater condom use held true for teens of all races, which the report called a "clear change from past patterns," when Hispanic and black males had been significantly less likely to have used a condom during their first sexual experience than their white counterparts were.
Another big change since this survey was last taken is the number of young couples using two forms of birth control at the same time, such as condoms and the pill.
The increase in condom use suggests teenagers are becoming more knowledgeable about sex before they start hooking up, perhaps because they are better educated or slightly older. The number of females age 15 to 17 reporting sexual experience has dropped by 10 percentage points since 1988, and among males that number has dropped even more.
While the percentage of teens using condoms the first time they had sex is on the rise, statistics otherwise looked very similar to those reported in 2002, with similar percentages of sexually active teens reporting that they used condoms regularly as they did in the last study.
Overall, the proportion of teenagers having sex has also remained unchanged in recent years, after a sharp decline during the 1990s. About 43 percent of females and 42 percent of males reported having sex at least once, which has dropped from 51 percent and 60 percent, respectively, in 1988.