Study Finds Sexual Messages in Media Affects Teens

( [email protected] ) May 11, 2004 02:40 PM EDT

Sexual propaganda does affect the youth mentally and physically, according to a new study by The Medical Institute for Sexual Health.

Teenagers who are exposed to media carrying sexual messages have different attitudes toward the behavior. "They have more permissive attitudes towards premarital sexual activity,"said study author Joe McIlhaney,"and then they think that having sex is beneficial."

Media nowadays contain many scenes or references to sexual material. For example, in the television, cable TV and music videos category of the study, 6.7 scenes included sexual topics in any given hour. One-third of shows with sexual content involve teenagers.

The brain development of adolescent teenagers encounter sexual material from the media will be different.

"The teen brain is malleable," McIlhaney said. "The nerve cells themselves physically grow different, depending on what they're exposed to."

It seems the same fate will meet every teenager since the media is flooded with sexual propaganda. “Even if they tried, kids can’t escape it,” said McIlhaney.

According to statistics the institute accumulated, 46 percent of high schools students have had sexual intercourse -- 6.6 percent of them before the age of 13, and 14 percent of them with four or more partners.

Despite the study’s gaps in knowledge from not knowing the extent to which the sexual content in the media affects the sexual attitudes and behavior of adolescents, there are measures parents can take to counter the effect.

"If parents sit and watch with their kids and talk to them about what they're seeing and hearing, it seems to mitigate almost all the negative affects," said Dr. Douglas Gentile, director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family. "If they sit and watch with them but don't talk about it, it seems to enhance the negative effects, because then the parents are giving tacit approval."