'influences children's sexual activities' Study:
TV as influential as religion
22/03/2006 Irish Times
By Jane Kirby
Children exposed to sex in TV programmes, films,
magazines and music are more likely to engage
in sexual activity than those who are not, a study
released yesterday found.
There is a direct relationship between the amount
of sexual content a child sees and their level
of sexual activity or their intentions to have
sex in the future, the study found. Such media
also has at least an equal influence on sexual
behaviour as religion or a child's relationship
with their parents and peers, the study said.
It concluded that the media is an "important source"
of information about sex for teenagers who might
not get advice elsewhere. More than 1,000 American
children aged between 12 and 15 were asked to
identify from a huge list the kinds of media they
were exposed to regularly.
They also answered questions about their health
and levels of sexual activity, including whether
they went on dates, kissed, had oral sex or full
sex. Researchers then examined the sexual content
of 264 items on the list, which included teen
magazines, teen movies and TV programmes.
They looked for examples of romantic relationships,
nudity, innuendo, touching, kissing, puberty and
sexual intercourse. The study, published in the
Journal of Adolescent Health and in Elsevier,
found that films, TV programmes, music and magazines
usually portrayed sex as "risk free". Sex was
usually between unmarried couples and examples
of using condoms or other contraception were "extremely
The study concluded: "The strong relationship
between media and adolescents 'sexual expression
may be due to the media's role as an important
sources of sexual socialisation for teenagers'.
"Adolescence is a developmental period that is
characterised by intense information-seeking,
especially about adult roles, and given the lack
of information about sexuality readily available
to teens, adolescents may turn to the media for
information about sexual norms."
The researchers said the media may serve as a
kind of "sexual super peer" for teenagers seeking
information about sex. " The average age of the
children was 13.7 years with about one-third thought
to come from poorer backgrounds, receiving free
or reduced price school meals.