The Washington Post reports that a new study has determined the obvious: teenagers who watch sexually explicit programs on television are more likely to become pregnant than those who don’t.
“Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy,” said lead researcher Anita Chandra. “We found a strong association.” The study is being published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
About 25 percent of those who watched the most were involved in a pregnancy, compared with about 12 percent of those who watched the least. The researchers took into account other factors such as having only one parent, wanting to have a baby and engaging in other risky behaviors.
Surprise, surprise. More:
Although TV viewing is unlikely to entirely explain the possible uptick in teen pregnancies, Chandra and others said, the study provides the first direct evidence that it could be playing a significant role.
“Sexual content on television has doubled in the last few years, especially during the period of our research,” said Chandra, a researcher at the nonpartisan Rand Corp.
Studies have found a link between watching television shows with sexual content and becoming sexually active earlier, and between sexually explicit music videos and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And many studies have shown that TV violence seems to make children more aggressive. But the new research is the first to show an association between TV watching and pregnancy among teens.
The study doesn’t weigh in on the debate between advocates of sex education in public schools and those who favor spending public money on abstinence-only programs. That argument can be expected to continue during an Obama presidency that I expect will put more emphasis on the former.
Neither approach is likely to be a silver bullet because the problem is multi-faceted, the major players being teens themselves, their parents, their friends, and the media. The last of these is now inescapably linked to the biggest problems that teenagers face in America. But the media’s response is likely to be to ignore their culpability.
As Time says, TV sex is getting more and more explicit in shows targeting kids. Sex sells, even to teens and younger children, and that’s evidently broadcasters’ business model.
Sex on TV has come a long way in the past few years. Anyone who saw the first episode of 90210— a pair of students engage in oral sex in the first episode of the new sequel to Beverly Hills 90210 — can attest to that.
As the only influencing factors in a teenager’s life that are truly capable of caring or changing their behavior, it’s up to parents to reject the inappropriate influence of media in their children’s lives. It’s also incumbent on them to take up the matter of sex and marriage with their kids at an earlier age than ever before, before it’s too late.