Summary: Sexual Content on TV Leads Teens To Initiate Sex Sooner

Adolescents who view more sexual content on television are more likely to initiate intercourse and progress to more advanced noncoital sexual activities.

  • According to an article written by the American Academy of Pediatrics, early sexual initiation is an important social and health issue. A recent survey suggested that most sexually experienced teens wish they had waited longer to have intercourse; other data indicates that unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are more common among those who begin sexual activity earlier. The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested that portrayals of sex on entertainment television may contribute to precocious adolescent sex. Approximately two-thirds of television programs contain sexual content. However, data examining the relationships between exposure to sex on TV and adolescent sexual behaviors are rare and inadequate for addressing the issue of causal effects. The results of this study indicated that adolescents who viewed more sexual content at baseline were more likely to initiate intercourse and progress to more advanced noncoital sexual activities during the subsequent year. Exposure to TV that included only talk about sex was associated with the same risks as exposure to TV that depicted sexual behavior. African American youths who watched more depictions of sexual risks or safety were less likely to initiate intercourse in the subsequent year. The researchers in this study concluded that watching sex on TV predicts and may quicken adolescent sexual initiation. Reducing the amount of sexual content in entertainment programming, reducing adolescent exposure to this content, or increasing references to and depictions of possible negative consequences of sexual activity could delay the initiation of sexual activities. Also, parents may be able to reduce the effects of sexual content by watching TV with their teenaged children and discussing their own beliefs about sex and the behaviors portrayed.1

1Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior, American Academy of Pediatrics, Vol. 114, No. 3, September 2004, pp. 280-289

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