Adolescents who watch a lot of television programmes with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in sex resulting in pregnancy over a three-year period as their peers who watch few such shows, a new RAND Corporation study shows. (No-one will be surprised at this discovery, but there is nothing so obvious, these days, that it does not have to be scientifically proved.) The researchers’ main beef about shows like Sex and the City and Friends is that they fail to highlight the “risks and responsibilities of sex” — the risks being pregnancy and disease, and the responsibilities being use of contraceptives.
The findings apply to both boys and girls in a sample of about 2000 teens aged 12 to 17 from a federal database. The participants were recruited in 2001 and asked about their viewing habits and sexual behaviour; they were surveyed again in 2002 and 2004. The latest analysis is based on results from about 700 of the young people who had engaged in sexual intercourse by the time of the third survey and reported their pregnancy history. Interviewers found that 58 girls had become pregnant while 33 boys had made a girl pregnant. Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched sexually-charged programmes regularly compared to those who said they rarely watched them.
RAND’s suggested remedies basically amount to “safe sex”. It wants broadcasters to portray the consequences of sex in their shows. It suggests parents “consider limiting their children’s access to programming with sexual content and spending more time watching programmes with their children so they can explain the consequences of sex”. Doctors should ask teens what they are watching on TV and give them a little talk about pregnancy, STI’s and contraception…
Obviously there are factors in addition to TV that influence teenage pregnancy. Significantly, the researchers found that teens living in a two-parent household were less likely to get pregnant. But they are not suggesting that broadcasters show more programmes featuring what sex is really about: married couples bring up their own kids. ~ RAND Press Release, Nov 3; Telegraph (UK), Nov 3