The more education young people receive about sex, the later they wait until they have sex, says a Queensland professor.

Parents be prepared. Teenagers across Australia are being urged to take you aside for a talk about sex.

Don’t be embarrassed, says sex communication expert Professor Alan McKee.

As long as the conversation is factual, age-appropriate and honest, it will be fine.

“The more education young people receive, the later they wait until they have sex, and the happier they’ll be about the decisions they make,” said Prof McKee of the Queensland University of Technology.

In the Netherlands the average age of first intercourse is 17.7 years, almost two years older than the average in Australia.

The difference is the quality of the sex education at home and at school.

It’s not enough to cover only the mechanics.

“Sexual health is not just about avoiding disease. It is about having all of the skills and information that one needs to have a safe, consensual, happy and fulfilling sexual life.”

Prof McKee’s research shows many Australian girls have no idea what menstruation is until they have their first period.

It also shows teenage girls trust the information they find in magazines like Girlfriend and Dolly.

That’s why he approached Girlfriend to co-publish a special Guide to Life, which will be in the shops on Monday.

“The important thing is that parents do not give young people the impression that there is something awkward or dirty or wrong about sex.”

One article in the special edition helps teenagers talk to their parents about sex.

“We know from research that the majority of parents want to be part of their children’s sex education, but they are not confident about it.

“That’s not surprising because this is probably the first generation of parents where there has been an expectation that they will talk openly and honestly about sex.”

His key message to parents is: “Talk soon, talk often. That’s the title of a free online book every parent should read.”

“The message for children is: don’t be embarrassed to talk to your parents about sex. The chances are they want to help you. They just don’t know how.”