If children don't gain sexual knowledge in proper ways, psychological problems can easily result, experts said here Monday at the 28th International Congress of Psychology.
Susan Pick, a Mexican expert, said that in China and some other developing Asian countries, people's conservative attitudes about sex lead to inadequate sexual education for children. In these countries, many young people begin to learn about sex in high school or even later, which may bring many negative results, for example, fear of sex in adulthood.
Li Xiaoming, who is in charge of a US pediatric prevention research center, said if children didn't receive sexual education at the right age, they would probably try to get information through other channels, such as illegal web sites and pornography, which can harm their growth.
Pick said children in Mexico begin to have lessons on sex at the age of five, recognizing the male and female sex organs and gaining basic knowledge through pictures and role playing.
Mexican schools never divide students according to their genders, Pick said. Boys and girls are always gathered in the same classes on sex education, and shyness never occurs. In this way, children get fun from participating in class activities and learn their own identities through proper access to sexual knowledge.
How to provide sex education, however, remains a problem. "To a five-year child, names of sex organs is enough," said Pick, adding that more sex knowledge should be added to school education as the child grows up.
Patricia Smith, a US psychologist specialized in family education, said that coordination among schools, parents, doctors and public media is very important. In the United States, many communities have set up family education consultant agencies, giving regular training to parents on how to deal with children's psychological problems at different stages.
Amir Mayenre, an Iranian psychologist, stressed that different countries should explore different types of sex education, in accordance with their own domestic situations and cultural backgrounds.
He noted that Muslim cultures, like the Chinese culture, cannot be that open to the sex education as in western countries.
Iranian children learn gender recognition under their parents' guidance, and will receive no sex education at school until the age of 13, he said.
"The messages and sexual knowledge they gain from the media is also far less than their western peers," he said.