Sunday, December 11, 2011

Study links sexual content on TV to teen pregnancy

Sexual content on television is strongly associated with teen pregnancy, a new study from the RAND Corporation shows.

Researchers at the nonprofit organization found that adolescents with a high level of exposure to television shows with sexual content are twice as likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone as those who saw fewer programs of this kind over a period of three years. It is the first study to demonstrate this association, RAND said.

A central message from the study is that there needs to be more dialogue about sex in the media, particularly among parents and their children, said Anita Chandra, the study's lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND.

"We know that parents are busy, but sitting down and watching shows together with their teen, talking about the character portrayals, talking about what they just witnessed, and really using it as a teachable moment is really, I think, a good recommendation from this research," Chandra said.

To measure exposure, the researchers used a method developed by another research group evaluating 23 shows for sexual content. Then, they asked teenagers how frequently they watched each of those shows, and developed a score based on exposure to the shows.

"We know that if a child is watching more than an hour of TV a day, we know there's a sexual scene in [the] content every 10 minutes, then they're getting a fair amount of sexual content," Chandra said. more