Less sex, more TV for SA kids

South African schoolchildren are having less sex and watching more television, according to a new survey.

The National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, the second of its kind, was conducted in 2008, the Medical Research Council said.

The survey, of 10,270 pupils in grades eight to 11, showed "significant reductions" in risky sexual behaviour, the MRC said. The number of pupils who had ever had sex dropped from 41% to 38%.

Of those who had had sex, the number with two or more sexual partners in their lifetime showed a significant decrease from 45% to 41%.

Fewer pupils - 52% as opposed to 70% - had had one or more sexual partners during the past three months.

Less STIs

Among those who had ever had sex, the incidence of sexually transmitted infections was significantly reduced, from 7% to 4%, while consistent condom use increased from 29% to 31%.

"The survey showed clear reductions in physical activity, increased threat to mental health and unsafe traffic behaviour," the MRC said.

"A significant increase in physical inactivity (38% to 42%) and TV watching for more than three hours per day (25% to 29%) was observed."

Suicide attempts increased

The number of pupils who had attempted suicide during the past six months was 3% up, to 21%. And 10% more pupils had, in the past 30 days, driven a vehicle after drinking alcohol.

Speaking at the Johannesburg launch of the survey, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said of the 38% who reported ever having sex, 16% said they did so after consuming alcohol and 14% after taking drugs.

"This highlights the highly unacceptable trends young people are faced with in society, which all of us should protect them against," he said.

Government should turn figures around

"Programmes of government should begin to turn these figures around and develop initiatives that can discourage and detract young people from such risks."

He said the survey found that 15% of pupils had carried weapons and 19% belonged to gangs, that just under a quarter had considered or tried to commit suicide, and than half of them had drunk alcohol.

These findings were a demonstration of a society failing in its responsibility to take care of its children. 

"They also demonstrate that we have abdicated our responsibilities as parents and society," he said. - (Sapa, April 2010)

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