Local TV shows are not helping teenage boys and girls identify daily conflicts and take responsible sexual behavior.

Most programs, now on the air, are foreign series and soap operas that have little or nothing to do with Cuban cultural and social realities.

Yanabel Naranjo is an eighth-grade student who talked about these issues with SEMlac.

"We watch these shows, but find no answers to our questions. I had for years thought that I shouldn't touch and explore my body. When I saw Puberty (cartoons), I found that such a thing was normal," Naranjo indicated.

"Unfortunately, after Puberty and Much Ado were shown on TV a couple of years ago, there has been no other local series along these lines," she regretted.

Produced by the Cuban Film Institute, the cartoons script was written by Mariela Castro, director of the National Sex Education Center, based on a book entitled What is puberty all about?

The idea behind the animated film was to help teenagers understand physical, psychological and social changes over this period of life.

On the other hand, Much Ado featured the stories of 16 secondary school children from various social and cultural backgrounds.

"Its aim was to make young people realize that they can really do whatever they want in life and to equip them with tools for this purpose," said Mariela López, the series director.

"I love Canada's Tree Hill, but I cannot compare myself to these youngsters who are no longer living with their families," Dayana Machado told SEMlac. She is a 17-year-old senior-high-school student.

Other foreign series now on the air include Ingalls Family and Young Hercules, which first came out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Teenagers and youngsters make up 20 percent of the 11.4-million population on the island. Recent research works have concluded that they have left behind the myths of virginity and sexual relations only after marriage.

The studies revealed that most people in this age bracket have sex for the first time when they are very young and do not have much information and knowledge about sexual practices.

They start using condom on a regular basis, for example, only after they turn 18, a national fertility survey showed.

Jorge Peláez, chairman of the National Juvenile Gynecology Commission, stressed that local boys usually start having sex at 14 and girls, at 16.

"Both the family and the media play a crucial role in helping meet the needs of young people," he added.

Renata Ortega, a Chilean psychologist and therapist who has for years worked as an advisor to the Ministry of Education, highlighted the important role of the family in developing a critical approach to TV shows in teenagers and youngsters.

Beatriz Torres, president of the Cuban Society for Multidisciplinary Sexuality Studies, urges parents and other family members to discuss sexual issues with young people at home.

"They are often given orders and criticized, and are very seldom apprised and paid attention to," she concluded.

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