WASHINGTON — The sex life of the American teenager is apparently far less busy than it was in generations past.
Less than half of teens older than 14 said they've had intercourse, a sharp drop from rates in the '80s, a new CDC study found. The majority of those who do choose to become sexually active are using some form of protection. And, in the last decade, the popularity of the so-called morning-after pill among girls has more than doubled.
Teen births, meanwhile, have plummeted about 57 percent over the last 30 years.
Researchers surveyed roughly 2,000 boys and girls, 15 to 19. (They also interviewed about 1,770 young adults, 20 to 24, about their high school encounters.)
The share of teen girls who reported they've had sex at least once dropped from 51 percent in 1988 to 44 percent in 2013, they found. Abstinence was more pronounced among males: 60 percent of teen boys in 1988 said they'd had sex, compared to 47 percent in 2013.
''They're looking on the Web,'' said Brooke Bokor, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Children's National Health System. ''They're looking for guidance from parents, guardians, and physicians. They can and will make positive decisions for their own health, both sexual and otherwise. We really need to be prepared to treat our youth and young adults as educated consumers.''
Another possible driver of the sexual slowdown is the growing popularity of the HPV vaccine, which is now widely offered to boys and girls as young as 11. The shots, of course, come with an educational conversation. Kids learn earlier about the prevalence of STIs and how they're spread.