The authors of the study are quick to point out that television exposure is not the only link. Obviously.
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.
But I've always felt that it stands to reason that the portrayal of sexual scenarios on TV shows has to be an influence on behavior.
When I was a kid, our parents watched TV with us. They may or may not have absorbed in the show, but they were in the room and able to gauge what was going on.
When CHiPs showed bikini clad girls on the beach my brother and I covered our eyes and asked mom to tell us when we could look again. As children, we saw no need to oogle half naked people. Same thing when grownups were kissing on TV. Ewww. We covered our eyes.
As I got older I saw shows and movies in which the love interests would start kissing - and the scene would cut to them in bed together - post-coitus.
Now I'm a Catholic girl and I'll admit that as teenagers we figured out a lot of ways to occupy ourselves between smooching and intercourse! I'm not proud of it, but hey - I never got pregnant either!
When I saw these portrayals, I wondered why there was always the presumption that the couple had sex. Especially since the portrayal was usually the first date. (Ha - it's typically the first time they kissed!) That seemed so strange to me. Didn't they talk about how they hardly knew one another? Whether they were going to use protection? Whether abortion is an option for either of them - or if they both plan to keep the other in their lives until that little sperm turns 18 years old?!
Another bit of the article: The bold is mine.
“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 …Seriously? This is a surprise?
Kids used to be sent out of the room when a couple on TV kissed! And now sit-com characters are doing the horizontal on the screen at 7:00pm! Yeah, society has changed!
I remember mentioning to a woman I worked with, that the show Friends (which was new and all the rage at the time) wasn't realistic because the characters sleep with every single person they date. "People don't do that." I said.
She thought for a second and remarked, that yes, she had slept with every guy she had dated.
I was stunned! But not too stunned, she was single with a 3 year old child after all. But every guy? Do you have any standards at all?
My point is, if that is what is represented as reality - how big of a stretch is it to BECOME reality?
Look what is on TV - regular TV, not cable... I don't have cable.. so what I'm referring to is prime time - free for all entertainment.
Friends - I love this show but they talk about sex a lot. They don't show it. The most they show is couples in bed under the sheets afterward. The only time consequences are addressed is after Rachel is pregnant and Ross can't understand, because they used condoms. "Yes, but condoms are only 99% effective." "What?!" Screeches Ross. "They should put that on the box!" It's in re-runs at all times of day now.
Sex and the City - it's in re-runs on regular TV now. They cut out the graphic details but, let's be real. The women are S L U T T Y. I heard a woman talking about watching SATC with her teenage daughter - how they both love the show. What?! Why is a teenager watching SATC? Sex and the City is for jaded single adults like me! Not for kids.
oh... and the worst offender of all -
Two and a Half Men - I used to think this show was funny but it's turned into the most pathetic display of skirt chasing ever to be beamed in the tube. Worst of all, the kid on the show is a witness to it all - and he says things that would have gotten my brother's mouth washed out with soap! and the adults on the show just act like it's funny.
The characters on this show are teaching the child that women are empty vessels to be used for sex. Sex has no consequences - apart from the occasional slap across the face. They make no bones about it. In the first season or two - Alan's character would try to cover for his brother Charlie's behavior - but they have long since give that up.
This show is in re-runs at 4:30 in the afternoon! Is THIS appropriate during a time of day that children are watching unsupervised?
If you think parents are sitting there adding a dose of reality to what the kids are seeing on the screen - you are sadly mistaken!
And that is the greater issue here. Parents need to monitor what goes into their kids eyes and ears and brains. I'm not saying that parents need to shelter them, but at least give them a reference for what is right and wrong. That what they see on that show is for entertainment value and sex is bigger than that.
See Meredith Viera and Dr. Nancy Snyderman discuss the study on The Today Show.