What Parents Should Know About Teen Masturbation

What Parents Should Know About Teen Masturbation

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If you are the parent of a teenager, you may or may not know whether he or she is masturbating. Most teenagers masturbate, and according to The American Acadamy of Pediatrics, teenage masturbation is a normal activity that is a natural extension of a child's exploration of his or her body.

You may wonder if the time your teen spends alone, behind the closed bathroom door, or during long showers is emotionally and physically healthy. Or you may worry about whether it is possible to masturbate too much or whether your teenager could hurt his or her genitalia.

In general, you do not need to worry about teenage masturbation. But there are some signs that your teenager may need to talk to you or to a pediatrician about masturbation.

Teens and Sexual Exploration

As teens experience puberty they become more curious about their developing bodies, and an adolescent will often explore his or her changing body and how it functions.

A recent study including boys and girls aged 14-17 reported that 80% of boys and 48% of girls admitted that they had masturbated. Most teenagers who masturbate do it in private and the frequency can vary from one teenager to another, ranging from just a few times per year to one or more times per day. Pediatricians explain that the frequency with which an individual teen masturbates may also change based on variations in sexual feelings and curiosity over time.

Talking To Your Teen

It is recommended that when parents talk about sex with teens, it is best not to shy away from bringing up masturbation. As a parent, you have your own communication style, and you should be yourself. While it is not necessary to talk about masturbation at great length, important things that your teen should know are that you will not invade privacy, you care about your teen, and that growing up and developing sexually are nothing to be ashamed of. It is helpful for your teen to know that it's normal to explore his or her own body and that it's not a shameful activity. It is also helpful for your teen to know that masturbation is a private activity.

Your teen likely will not openly admit that he or she masturbates, and there is no reason for you to ask or pressure your teen to tell you.

When to Worry

There are a few concerning issues regarding teenage masturbation that you should be aware of as a parent.

Bullying: If your teenager has been spied on, recorded, or is being bullied regarding masturbation, you, as a parent can be your teen's ally to minimize or eliminate the embarrassment and bullying. As you support your child, remind your teen that any invasion of privacy is a crime and not the fault of the bullied child.

Physical pain: Sometimes an area being stimulated can become sore, and an over-the-counter lubricant can help with that issue. In order not to embarrass your teen, consider leaving a bottle of lubricant in the family medicine cabinet where he or she can see it without it being pointed out.

Physical injury: An object used for masturbation can become stuck during vaginal or anal stimulation. These are rare occurrences, but if you suspect that your child is having pain or discomfort in the genital area, find out if it is an emergency. Tell your teen that you can make an appointment to see the pediatrician or suggest going to the emergency room, no questions asked.

Lack of social inhibition: Masturbation in public or excessive masturbation are problematic, and are often symptoms of behavioral disorders. For example, teens with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) sometimes touch themselves sexually in public or do other inappropriate activities due to the disorder. Teenagers who have autism may masturbate compulsively or in the view of others. If your teenager has these behaviors, you need to seek advice from a doctor. Sometimes behavioral therapy can help, and sometimes medication is needed.

Excessive masturbation or preoccupation with masturbation: Children who have been sexually abused may masturbate excessively, become unusually preoccupied with sex or masturbation, or act out sexually. If you notice these behaviors, be sure to give your teen a chance to open up to you and to know that you are on his or her side. And talk to your pediatrician to get advice and professional attention for your child.

Masturbation is not a cause for concern as long as it is done in private and doesn't interfere with daily life.

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