Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Daniel Drezner discusses a new RAND Corporation study that suggests that teens that watch television containing sexual content begin having sex much earlier than their peers. The press release for the study says:

Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today…

These adolescents behaved sexually like youths who were 9 to 17 months older, but watched only average amounts of TV with sexual content, according to the study published in the September electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics.

This is news? It’s always baffled me how anyone can argue that watching TV doesn’t affect behavior. After all, companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars each year on ads if they didn’t work.

I would imagine this is especially true when it comes to teens and sex , as compared to, say, violence. Most kids don’t have a strong predisposition to violence. In addition, most of the violence they see on TV is fake, and they know it’s fake, so the effect is relatively minor.

Sex is a different matter. Teen hormones are spurring them on to being with, and any sexual input, real or imaginary, feeds the fury. For most teens, they already want sex or at least are curious about it, and they know they will have it some day.

Television pushes sex constantly, whether in commercials, videos, talk shows, or in any of the dozens of “reality” shows. These shows, many of them targeted specifically at teens, typically feature groups of beautiful people trying to “hook up.” If sex isn’t the theme of the show, you can be sure it will show up in a sub-plot. The biggest offender is MTV, but even “family” channels like Disney have gotten quite bad. Is it any wonder kids are having kids?

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