Children and teenagers who are exposed to sex through the media are more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who are not, according to new research. A study by an American team has found a direct relationship between the amount of sexual content children see and their level of sexual activity or their intentions to have sex in the future. The survey, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and online, claims that film, television, music and magazines may act as a kind of "sexual super peer" for teenagers seeking information about sex. It also suggests that the media have at least as great an influence on sexual behaviour as religion or a child's relationship with their parents and peers. More than 1, American children between the ages of 12 and 15 were asked to list the kinds of media they were exposed to regularly.
There is growing concern about young people's exposure to sexual content through television and other electronic media and about its potential effects on their sexual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Researchers have documented the growing prevalence of sexual talk and portrayals of sexual behavior in televised media, as well as associations between adolescent viewing patterns and their sexual activities. We reviewed the current scientific literature on adolescents and sex in the media—using searches of MEDLINE—and the psychological and media literature.
While all age groups potentially could be affected by sexual messages on television, adolescents may be particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons. First, teens may not be sufficiently cognitively developed to discern and critique messages from television 1. Second, these messages are bombarding teens at a stage when they are in the midst of developing their values and beliefs around gender roles, sexual behaviours and attitudes. Further, we know that teens spend a great deal of time watching television. The average teen spends 3 h to 4 h per day in front of the television, which in some cases is more time than that spent in the classroom 2 , 3.