Growing up is difficult enough without the added pressure of being told what to do by family, friends, or society. Being a teen means facing changes in responsibilities, privileges and expected roles. And sexuality is one area that is often the most problematic.

There are several risks for teenagers who are sexually active. Aside from the risk of STDs, STIs and unplanned pregnancies, there’s always a possibility of abuse—emotional, physical, and sometimes even legal. Before having sex, this is what every teen ought to know:

1. Reasons For Having Sex
The only time you should have sex is when you’re ready for it. Emotional blackmail, peer pressure, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or any kind of fear are not good reasons at all. Think about whether you are willing, and ready before you take that step, and remember that you have the right to say no.

2. Choosing Your Partner
Sexual intimacy is a delicate thing and requires large measures of trust, understanding and respect. When choosing your partner, make sure they are someone who has all three, and are responsible. Previous experience is no guarantee that it will be a wonderful encounter for both of you.

3. Protection Against Disease & Pregnancy
Do your homework on contraception and protection options by either visiting a doctor, a planned parenthood center, or talking to a trustworthy adult. Having the right information is vital for a safe experience, so ensure that you are prepared before you dive in.

4. Knowing Your Right
You have to be of legal age before you can indulge in sexual activity. This varies from state to state in America, and from country to country in the rest of the world. Laws have been made to protect young children and teens from those who might take advantage of them. Know that even if you are of legal age, you may not be emotionally or mentally ready for sex. The right age, therefore, is not the only green signal. If someone forces you to have sex, it is sexual assault and rape, and should be reported to the proper authorities immediately.

With so many fears and doubts about sex plaguing young people, the simplest way would be to follow these tips before deciding whether you are ready to take this big step.

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.