Although one in four girls and one in 20 boys experience sexual abuse before they turn 18, only nine states are required to teach students about consent. However, consent education is essential for keeping students safe from sexual harassment and assault. Starting conversations about consent with middle schoolers, in particular, is imperative because young women aged 15-19 are the most likely victims of sexual assault and young men of the same ages are the most likely to be perpetrators. Openly discussing consent with students is the first step toward changing these statistics. Below, you'll discover the importance of consent education, how to teach middle school students about consent and some of the best consent activities for middle school students.
Although consent is most often associated with sex, consent simply means granting permission. In this way, consent applies to a range of nonsexual situations, such as borrowing items, sharing things and giving hugs. Defining consent is key to helping younger students understand its importance and the skills they need to respect others' boundaries and practice consent themselves. Teaching about consent at an early age is crucial for helping them understand personal boundaries, how to say no, how to respect others' answers and how to ask for help. These factors can contribute toward preventing sexual harassment and assault later in life. Encouraging open discussions about consent can create a safe space for students to ask questions and be honest about any pressures they may be facing. Consent education is also an important component of a more holistic sex education. Specifically, consent education pushes back against the often harmful abstinence-only approach by acknowledging young people's ability to say yes, teaching students about safe sex and dispelling misconceptions about sexual violence and gender stereotypes. In general, an outline of consent education includes defining consent, describing how a relationship power imbalance can impact personal boundaries, how to exercise the ability to say no or yes and how to respect hearing no from someone else. Laying the foundation of consent as permission helps students understand how to interact with the concept and that sex without consent is rape or sexual assault.
While the concept of consent should be introduced at a young age, it is especially important to explain consent to middle schoolers who are just starting to gain more independence. Consent conversations at this age matter because middle school is a critical time for developing core beliefs about sex and healthy relationships. In middle school, students start to become more exposed and open to the idea of romantic relationships, and they need to be ready to solicit and give consent. Teaching consent at this time can help students have smoother, safer relationships throughout their years in middle school, high school and beyond.
When starting the conversation about consent with middle schoolers, remember that middle school is a confusing time and students might be hearing rumors about sex and relationships from unreliable sources, such as the internet or their peers. Remind students that it's okay to be confused and encourage them to ask questions with adults they can trust. Once you have established that it is safe for students to be honest and ask questions, try using the following strategies for teaching consent to middle schoolers.
For more teaching materials and consent activities for middle school students, explore the content from Lessonbee. Lessonbee provides culturally responsive, interactive and data-based educational tools created by actual teachers. At Lessonbee, you can find factual and dependable sexual health information online to help you teach your middle school students about consent. To learn how to talk about consent with your middle schoolers more effectively, sign up for a Lessonbee subscription today.