Study: Teen Sexual Behavior Linked to Viewing Sexual Content on TV

Focus on the Family experts say sexual content should be taken off television programming after a recent study showed teens who watched more sexual content had increased sexual activity.
( [email protected] ) Sep 09, 2004 08:37 PM EDT

After the RAND corporation study found viewing sexual content on television leads to an increase in sexual activity among teens, Focus on the Family sexual analyst and abstinence expert say television programmers should take out the harmful content.

“It’s very important for parents to understand how directly correlated these images are to sexual activity,” said Linda Klepacki, manager of Focus on the Family’s abstinence department.

“We as parents and professionals must urge the television industry to take sexual content out of their programming — or severely limit it. At the very least, put it on at times when our teens and our children are not going to be seeing it, when they are not exposed to it,” she said.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined the correlation between sexual activity and television-viewing habits of 1,792 adolescents aged 12 to 17. The participants asked what they watched on TV and what their sexual activity was. A year later the same children were asked the same questions again.

“In effect, youths who watch the most sexual content 'acted older': a 12-year-old at the highest levels of [sexual] exposure behaved like a 14- or 15-year-old at the lowest levels,” wrote the study’s researchers.

Rebecca Collins, a psychologist at the RAND Corporation who led the study, told Reuters, “This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities.”

Focus on the Family Media and Sexuality Analyst Daniel Weiss is not surprised by the study.

“There are literally thousands of studies showing the negative impact of television on kids,” said Weiss. “What this study shows is that even when accounting for a number of other variables also known to increase teen sexual activity, television programs have a dramatic and harmful impact on the sexual lives of our children.”

Weiss lists The Media Project, Advocates for Youth, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) as groups who try to put more programs with sexual content on T.V.

“If these groups were at all interested in protecting teens, they would follow this study’s recommendations and advocate for a drastic reduction in sexual content in mass media,” Weiss said. “But this is unlikely to happen, given these groups’ push for a greater sexualization of our culture.”

The study also reported that while two-thirds of TV programs contain sexual content, very rarely will they include messages on sex education.

“Considering the force of this study’s conclusions, parents would do well to steer clear of groups promoting TV sexual content,” suggested Weiss.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (USA) funded the study.