New research found in the November Issue of Pediatrics, suggest that pregnancy rates are far higher in teens who watch a lot of “sexy” TV shows that involve sexual behavior and dialogue. Teens who watched such shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years.
This research focused on shows that highlight “positive aspects” of sexual behavior without properly showing the risks involved. Such shows can lead teens to have unprotected sex. This study follows previous research from the same group that have already found that watching a lot of sex on TV can influence teens to have sex at earlier ages.
This study involved 2,003 12 to 17 year old boys and girls questioned by telephone about their TV viewing habits in 2001. They were asked how often they watched any of of more than 20 TV shows that are popular among teenagers that have heavy sexual content. Example shows are “Sex and the City,” “That 70s show”, and “Friends”. This followed two more follow up calls which asked about pregnancy. 58 girls became pregnant and 33 boys said they got a girl pregnant.
Pregnancies were twice as more likely among those who watched such shows regularly compared to those rarely ever watched such shows. The rate of pregnancy was consistent across all the age groups. Other factors were considered such as school grades, family structure, parent’s education levels. Some factors that were not factored in were family values and income, thus some feel the study doesn’t adequately cover other factors that could help contribute to a particular sexual behavior.
US teen pregnancies were on a 15 year decline until a 3 percent jump in 2006.
Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data that show only 19 percent of American teens feel they can talk openly with a trusted adult about sex. With many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media to serve as a sex educator, he said.
“For a kid who no one’s talking to about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as this is what the cool people do,” the outcome is obvious, Walsh said.
He said the message to parents is to talk to their kids about sex long before children are teens. Parents also should be watching what their kids watch and helping filter messages sex-filled shows are sending, he said.
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