Teen Pregnancy – Does TV Watching Have an Effect?

There has been much discussion and controversy for years over the link between adolescent sexual activity and the media portrayal of sex. And many have wondered about this connection and the statistics of teen pregnancy as well. Of course, there are extremes on both sides of the equation but what the reality actually is has always been questionable.

Most people realize that TV and other media does have an affect on teens as well as everyone else as far as behavior, spending and other habits are concerned. If this wasn’t the case there wouldn’t be restrictions placed on the media for the display of ads and programs promoting smoking, drinking, sex and language.

So now the question is…

Do these restrictions go far enough especially when it comes to the portrayal of sex and pregnancy in everyday shows that are frequently watched by many teens these days? Many parents and professional don’t think so, especially since many of the past restrictions have become quite loose, exposing kids to what many believe has become even more inappropriate. And even leaning toward promoting adolescent sexual behavior as acceptable.

The only saving grace here has been the advent of parental control programs giving parents a way to limit teens and other children from exposure to what parents believe to be inappropriate. This, however, doesn’t help much when kids head on over to their friends house where other parents might not share the same attitude on viewing restrictions.

One of the obstacles facing those wanting more restriction have been the fact that no one has been able to connect increases in teen pregnancy to tv viewing, that is until now. Yes, a three year study by the Rand Corp has been quite an eye opener.

This study found that teens watching the highest level of TV shows displaying sexual content were twice as likely to experience a teen pregnancy within a three year period as those teens watching the least amount of sexual content on television within that same three year period. Twice as likely seems quite high to me and something for parents to seriously think about especially if their adolescent is attracted to these types of programs.

Rand Study Recommendations…

However, the study does offer some recommendations for parents to help eliminate the possibility of teen pregnancy. These include limiting exposure to sexual content on TV, balancing the TV viewing with information about the negative consequences of adolescent sexual behavior instead of the glamorous way sexual activity is portrayed on television and the most important step of all is watching these shows with your kids so you can use them as a springboard for a discussion on sex, teen pregnancy and a more realistic approach.

For more information check out the full article on adolescent pregnancy from the Nov 2008 edition of the journal, Pediatrics. Access it here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/