The website 4parents.gov, one of the latest “public education campaigns” launched by the Bush administration, claims to “provide parents with the information, tools and skills they need to help their teens make the healthiest choices.” Maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, the website seeks to encourage “parents to talk frankly [with teens] about sensitive topics like sex and relationships.” However, the website fails miserably in these goals and nearly 150 public health and advocacy organizations agree. In a letter expressing “deep concern” about the website, the groups acknowledge that parents ought to be “the primary sexuality educators of their children” but chide the HHS for a website that “relies on fear to motivate and contains many errors and biases that undermine its intent of encouraging parent-child communication around sex and sexuality.”
The section entitled “What if Your Teen Has Already Had Sex?” includes value-laden, abstinence only advice: “Tell them it’s not too late to stop having sex, that it’s never too late to make healthy choices. They are worth it!” The section provides “no resources or suggestions” for parents with children who make the decision to remain sexually active. For those parents, 4parents.gov instead “contains inaccurate information regarding the effectiveness of condoms, as well as the transmission and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.” By spreading misleading information, 4parents.gov succumbs to the mistaken belief that “giving young people negative information about contraception will encourage them not to have sexual intercourse, when all it will do is encourage them not to have contraception.”
Furthermore, the only non-governmental organization “credited as having worked with HHS to create 4parents.gov” is the National Physicians Center for Family Resources (NPC). With its ties to Focus on the Family and other radically conservative organizations, the group has been accused of representing “views that are far outside the values of mainstream Americans and the public health community.” Moreoever, they push for the enforcement of “abstinence until marriage” policies and claim that “suggesting that contraceptive-based education will protect the overall health of America’s adolescents is a prescription for continued disaster.” With help like NPC, its no wonder that 4parents.gov pushes abstinence and discounts the notion of safe sex.