Monday, November 3, 2008

TV Sex = Teen Sex

Study First to Link TV Sex to Real Teen Pregnancies:

Teenagers who watch a lot of television featuring flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes are much more likely than their peers to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant, according to the first study to directly link steamy programming to teen pregnancy.

The study, which tracked more than 700 12-to-17-year-olds for three years, found that those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as those who saw the least.

Studies have found a link between watching television shows with sexual content and becoming sexually active earlier, and between sexually explicit music videos and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And many studies have shown that TV violence seems to make children more aggressive. But the new research is the first to show an association between TV watching and pregnancy among teens.
This reminds me of the "comic books cause juvenile delinquency" research from the 1950's. Or the numerous studies showing the increase in media violence in the 1960's and 1970's at the same time real violence went up as well.

Just because "sexual content on TV has increased" (a proposition I'm not even sure about), and this happened at the same time as a rise in teen pregnancy, it does not mean A is causing B to occur. One can show "association" or correlations among all kinds of variables, but that does not mean watching sex on TV causes teenagers to go out and get pregnant.

The researchers acknowledge not studying the effect of "different approaches to sex education," which is a huge variable to overlook. And they don't seem to acknowledge reciprocal interest in media content: perhaps those who are already engaged in teen sex are drawn to TV shows which reinforce said interest.

Studies such as this should worry everyone, but not for the reasons most would assume. A rise in teen pregnancy is always concerning, but blaming "Friends" for it is nothing short of silly.

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