Monday, November 3, 2008

No surprise: Study links sex on TV to teen pregnancies

A study by the Rand Corporation says there's link between teenagers watching sex on TV with pregnancy.

The RAND Corp. study is the first of its kind to identify a link between teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on TV and teen pregnancies. The study, released Monday and published in the November edition of the journal Pediatrics, found that teens exposed to high levels of sexual content on television were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy in the following three years as teens with limited exposure.

The study’s authors are quick to point out that the factors leading to teen pregnancies are varied and complex — but they say it’s important for parents, teachers and pediatricians to understand that TV can be one of them.

“We were surprised to find this link,” said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization. “But teens spend a good amount of their time watching television — an average of three hours a day — and we don’t know a lot about its impact on their health decisions …

“We don’t think that [TV] is necessarily more significant than some of the family and neighborhood factors that can lead to teen pregnancies. But even when we removed all the other factors, we still saw a compelling link between a high exposure to sexual content on television and teen pregnancies.”

In the debate over pornography and obscenity laws, opponents argue there's no linkage with the sexual abuse of women and other social problems resulting from out of control sex. I've always found these arguments to defy common sense. If advertisers spend millions and billions of dollars for 30 second ads or print ads in newspapers to influence behavior then why should we assume there's no linkage between sexually violent and other forms of pornography with such social problems as rape, abuse and promiscuity.

Now there's evidence suggesting that sexual messages and scenes on television impact teenagers. Again common sense would say there's a linkage between sex on TV and teen pregnancies.

What should be done about it? Of course parents need to teach and train their kids to be discerning TV viewers, yet that doesn't go far enough. Because sexually explicit material is so ubiquitous and pervasive in society and impacting not just on teenagers but adults, it's appropriate for standards to be implemented regarding acceptable and unacceptable content. Exactly what was done for so many years on television and the movies.

Of course, that's unacceptable with the anything goes mentality of so many in society.

What's the response of the National Association of Broadcasting? They released a statement saying:
Though NAB has not had a chance to review the report, it’s worth noting that broadcasters encourage parents and caregivers to use the V-chip and other program blocking technologies that would screen out shows that are inappropriate for children. We would also point out that broadcast television is generally far less explicit than programming found on cable, satellite and on the Internet.”

In other words, they don't want any further restrictions or self police the content and messaging on the network programs.

I think sex saturated messages are a form of cultural pollution which harms people in just as real ways as environmental pollution. It damages and destroys lives and relationships. Just ask a family or a teenager what the impact of an unplanned, out of wedlock teen pregnancy had on their lives.

Yet in today's society, anything hinting at moral standards is immediately ignored or dismissed. We as people and a society are poorer as a result.

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