Is There a Link Between TV Watching and Teen Pregnancy?

A significant portion of my interviews with kids and overhearing kids’ conversations with one another have involved television and movie viewing habits. In nearly 100% of the cases, the kids who had watched sexually explicit television shows and movies are the same kids who got involved with sexual activity during their adolescent years.

In an Associated Press article by Lindsey Tanner, recent research from the Rand Corporation indicates that “pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behaviour than among those who have tamer viewing tastes”. As you might have guessed, “Sex in the City”, “Friends”, and “That 70’s Show”, staples among some adolescents, were some of the shows that were used in the research.

Further, according to the research, “Teens who watched the raciest shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years as those who watched few such programs”. Sure to illicit further chagrin from parents, the report also indicated that, “Shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions. Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the racy programs”.

The lead researcher for the project, Behavioral Scientist Anita Chandra, said TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents' education level.

Tanner reported that Bill Albert, chief program officer at the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, praised the study and said it "catches up with common sense. Media helps shape the social script for teenagers. Most parents know that. This is just good research to confirm that," Albert said.

Sadly, Tanner wrote that Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, cited data suggesting only about 19 per cent of American teens say 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." OUCH!!

So, what are your kids watching? What messages are they receiving? Do your kids have extended hours with a television and videos or Cable TV? I will address these issues in the next two blogs. Stay tuned and … get your kids away from that television!!

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