prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Sex on TV Promotes Teen Pregancy

Posted by prof e on November 14, 2008

teen pregnancyAccording to a recent study published in Pediatrics, teens who watch more explicit sexual content on TV are twice as likely to become pregnant or father a child before they reach age 20.This is the first time that a study has actually shown a relationship between exposure to explicit content on TV and pregnancy. This is alarming when you consider that the US has double the teen pregnancy rate of other developing countries. It is particularly troubling now as the country has seen its first increase in teen pregnancy in 14 years.

It’s not just that kids are watching sexually-charged content on TV, but also that the sexual content fails to portray sex in a realistic way. According to one of the researchers, “most TV shows portray sex as having few life-altering implications, such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases” (quoted in USA Today). And while there are many variables that affect a teen’s decision to become sexually active, the researchers indicated that, “TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents’ education level.”

And what were the TV programs that contained sexually-explicit content? Several mentioned included; Sex and the City, That ’70s Show, and Friends.

If this study is replicated and the finding supported, what should be our response as concerned citizens and consumers of media?

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35 Responses to “Sex on TV Promotes Teen Pregancy”

  1. chris vail said

    It depends on the content of the tv show. Sexually explicit content is probably too broad of a term to draw specific conclusions to those results. It can be constructive if there is a storyline or theme that explores consequences and responsible decision-making. If teens are replicating what they are seeing on tv then it would follow that if they see an actor behaving responsibly, such as wearing and using condoms, then they would follow in that behavior as well. Unfortunetly, most tv shows don’t portray sex in a realistic and responsible manner. The question remains, is it the responsibility of Hollywood to educate their audiences or is it to entertain? I tend to believe it is the parents responsibility to educate their children. Parents need to educate their children to make responsible life choices, such as having safe sex and avoiding teen pregnancy. If this study is replicated and supported, I still don’t believe there should be changes to programming. If sexually explicit shows are banned or censored, teens will still have sex. It’s human nature. We have more than 6 billion people on this planet, mostly because of our instinctive sexual urges. It’s certainly a slippery-slope with this topic.

  2. Isaiah McGregory said

    I don’t think that it is only sex on television that’s contributing to teen pregnancy; it is also sensuality on television. I strongly agree that the portrayal of sex on tv is skewed in a way that is attractive to young impressionable minds, but even if the sex wasn’t on the television, the idea of sex is still there. I think that without sex on tv, teen pregnancy rates would be even higher than it is now. I think that because even though characters on shows have sex on a whim, they still practice safe sex. It’s funny that the article mentions Friends as a reference to sex on tv, but I remember a particular episode that a character couple couldn’t have sex because they didn’t have condoms. I feel like without these shows, younger audiences wouldn’t have any kind of guidelines for sex.
    Young girls watch kiddy shows and movies like Bratz, The Fairly Odd Parents, My Little Pony, The Power Rangers, and Bring It On, and see how the females dress and they mimic them. The entertainment never talks about sex, but the idea of it is there with image of sexy dress. They don’t know it, but they are being brainwashed to look a certain way. After seeing this and going to school the next day dressed like the girls on tv, the young girls unsuspectingly awaken a brand new feeling in boys around them, which send their already raging hormones through the roof. Now that this new urge is present, young boys pursue anything that will satisfy this hunger.
    My point is, that without shows like Friends, teens wont know about safe sex. Without shows like Sex and the City, teens wont be aware of disease, how to have it, where to have it, and even when to have it. Now a days, schools have gotten rid of sex education, and I personally don’t know a parent that speaks openly about sex to their children. I’m not saying that kids should get all of sexual knowledge from tv, but if nobody is going to educate, then they should have some sort of guidance. If its from tv, so be it.

  3. Molly Cotner said

    If this study is replicated and found to be consistent we as consumers need to do a few things. First, I think that we must teach our children at home about sex, its consequences, and the responsibilities of sex. Second, we must pay attention and regulate what our children are viewing. Third, we should require that shows take a look at how they portray sex and its consequences. I do believe however, we must be more involved as adults and make sure that TV is not the one parenting our children.

    Molly Cotner

  4. Alex Timmons said

    I’m likeley to hold the minority opinion here, but I actually think sexually controversial material should actually be more pervasive on television than it is. Sure, as it (sex) is presented on some of the shows listed above, it seems strangely glamorized, but it’s what they don’t tell us, or our kids, about the contrived sex scenes that drives adolescent curiosity.

    Teenagers don’t hide from the things they don’t understand, they march fearlessly toward them. Sexuality as it is portrayed through your average, inane sitcom or television drama leaves much more to the imagination than most people will admit. Yes, it’s true that the shows mentioned do not emphasize the darker aspects of sexual activity, but that is precisely why more “sexually explicit” material is needed.

    There are a range of well made films that have tackled issues pertaining to sexuality over the last 40 years or so, especially within the independent film community, but because of our rediculous rating structure, access and exposure is limited. Of course sex on TV today is far more revealing than it was during our parents or their parents rise to adulthood, and those generations were having the same tired conversations about how and why to possibly impose even more restrictions for sexuality as presented here.

    Simply put, stigmatizing sexual content through some sort of puritanical sense of ethics is what in fact makes the content itself seem more explicit than it truly is. Many smarter people than me have said, “What people will tolerate within the public domain progresses generationally, and with one funeral at a time.” America is arguably behind the curve when it comes to dealing with sex in an open and honest manner, and it’s time to realize that the shameful stigma of human sexuality (as preached to us through our dominant religion)is the problem, not the portrayal of sex through the media.

  5. Brittany Valdez said

    I think media today has a big contribution to the rise in teen pregnancy it is not the main reason though. Media effects our youth in so many ways from music videos, to sitcoms, to movies. They potray women in skimpy clothes and them going along from partner to partner. Which in reality isnt acceptable. They just show the fun part of it they really never show some of the consequences that could happen such as catching a sexually transmitted disease or getting pregnant. It is women that are dressing and acting like this but it is our youth that is watchin it and wanting to be like it. I do think a way to help change the rise in teen pregnancy is for parents to inform their children about all subjects about sex. It is a reality of life and if you just ignore that its gonna happen to your child then you could be in line for a whole new set of problems.

  6. ashley solano said

    Media often portrays sex as glamorous and attractive. Young men and woman allover are watching these television shows were people are so in the moment they have no concerns about protection or consequences. Although television is not the only false portayal of sex, music,movies and websites also show many unrealistic sides of having sex. Sex is everywhere and kids are not going to quit having sex just because their favoite characters quit having sex. Kids will do what they want, whenn they want to do it. I don’t think sex in the media is the prime reason young kids are having sex, but it is definately one of the largest factors. If the study was replicated and the facts were proved then I think that as concerned citizens parents need to talk about sex and precautions to their kids, siblings to siblings and peers to peers. Also the media can start making more realistic sex scenes and sex talk like using condoms, taking brith control and sex resulting in pregnancy. I don’t think we can stop sex from making an entertainment value of shows and movies,but use realistic ways to reduce it and help prevent it.

  7. ashley said

    The media often portrays sex as glamorous and attractive. Young men and woman allover the U.S are watching these television shows were people are so in the moment they have no concerns about protection or consequences. Although television is not the only false portayal of sex, music,movies and websites also show many unrealistic sides of having sex. Sex is everywhere and kids are not going to quit having sex just because their favoite characters quit having sex. Kids will do what they want, whenn they want to do it. I don’t think sex in the media is the prime reason young kids are having sex, but it is definately one of the largest factors. If the study was replicated and the facts were proved then I think that as concerned citizens parents need to talk about sex and precautions to their kids, siblings to siblings and peers to peers. Also the media can start making more realistic sex scenes and sex talk like using condoms, taking brith control and sex resulting in pregnancy. I don’t think we can stop sex from making an entertainment value of shows and movies,but use realistic ways to reduce it.
    ashley solano

  8. Nate said

    I think sex on tv sometimes promotes teen pregnancy. Its how they watch they show. Television is not only thing they can get promoting sex from, there is the internet, books, magazines and many more thing they could find it from. The makers of the thing i just mention will probably not get rid of sex in those things. It could educate you as well, telling you want could happen to you as well. Sex on television could promote teens to pregnancy and it could also help teens as well.

    Nate Lawrence

  9. George Morant said

    Ok so do we blame the television for parents faied duties? I really dont believe that television is the major factor why kids are getting impregnated at young ages its simply the way kids are bought up. yes television can influence some chooes a child might make but as a parent you should talk to your children before its too late. i say that we need to stop blaming everything in the media for the corruption of our youth, and work on how to counteract situations such as this one.

  10. Jeremy Romero said

    I believe that the content does promote sexual activity between younger people. However I dont think that it promotes teen pregnancy. The shows that I have seen promote safe sex about half of the time. Plus all of the condom and aids commercials and advertisments help kids be safe about sex. Since this is the only year that teen pregnancy has increased, I think that it kind of proves that television content isnt related to pregnancy because this type of content has been on television for a long time.

  11. Kyle Morehouse said

    I do believe that sex on television does contribute to teens having more sex and increasing the chances of becoming a parent. I think that the T.V. shows such as Friends, and That 70’s show should also promote safe sex. Parents are going to have a hard time trying to get their kids to not have sex but it would be better if they used protection.

  12. Marcus Hunter said

    I’m not going to argue that sex on TV CAN contribute to an increase in number of teen prenancies. But that can’t be the only thing to blame when it comes to this problem. All types of media, music, TV, movies, books, magazines, etc. are often criticized for having too much of a negative effect on children. Everybody is always quick to point a finger at the media. I believe that our society is not taking the blame for it’s own actions. If there were no such thing as sex, and violence, then the networks wouldn’t air shows that contain it, because technically it wouldn’t be real. However, sex is very real and therefore the entertainment business has a right to acknowledge that. The issue with teen pregnancies starts in the home, and how the child is raised, and that goes for many other issues also. Continually blaming the entertainment business is just continually letting parents everywhere off the hook.

  13. Brittany said

    At first glance at the article I had already made up my mind and could argue that t.v. absolutely doesn’t promote teen pregnancy, but after reading further, the blog said that the researchers had taken into consideration all the other aspects in a teenagers life and still came to the same conclusion. I guess that it could be possible that it promotes teen sex and could lead to more teen pregnancy, but I still wonder how accurate the study is. In my high school everybody was pregnant. It was very common and not a big deal, but after being in college other people expressed to me that no body in there high school was pregnant and I’m pretty sure they all watched the same t.v. shows we did. Sex and the city was one of the movies we all went to go see in theaters and there was no difference between us. I told my roommate about the article and we both thought of movies like 13 and some other movie I can’t remember that are widely known among teens that talk about the dangers of unprotected sex. There are commercials for condoms on t.v. hourly Its hard to say where the balance really is, but I do not think that this study has accurate results and I’m not sure any study can accurately measure that.

  14. Lindsay Wolking said

    Our Response? We as consumers of media need to become responsible for what we are doing and watching. Yes, it is true that our minds are like ‘sponges’ in that we soak everything up that we can. I beleive that they is a sligth connection withing the fact that girls are more likely to become pregnant if they watch media, I believe that you will find an even bigger connection with the fact that girls who are bored are more likely to watch T.V. thus proving that if they are bored they will be more curious to find something to satisfy themselves (sex)
    Your surroundings provide a hug influence on how you react to media, you see I will use myself as an example, I beleive strongly in abstinence outside of marriage so even if I do watch T.V. my mind might be affected by media subconsciously but I most positive I will still ‘stick to my guns’. Teens are getting pregnant more plainly because they are curious, they are bored and while growing up they were not giving the proper foundation of moral beleifs. I do beleive all the combination you will find someone who will be more likely to get pregnant.

  15. Adrianna Fernandez said

    I think that media does have a very big affect on teenage pregnancy but does not do a good job of portraying safe sex. It’s very hard for teenagers growing up in this generation because sex is just about everywhere on the news, in magazines, on t.v. shows and even in books. What I think our media should consider is to not only show the highlights of sex but also the consequences of sex!

  16. Alex Lannon said

    I have to agree with the fact that sex as it is portrayed on televison can in a small way, however, I honestly believe it is the peers of those teens that are influencing them to have sex at such an early eage. I don’t think teens see the negative sides of sex amoung their friends, so they think they will only feel the positive sides as well. I think the root of the problem is the teens themselves and the morals they hold, or rather, dont hold.

  17. Jesse Rodriguez said

    Seeing at rapid increase of teen pregnancy doesn’t really surprise me. Reason I say that is because I came from a high school that had a majority of the girls either pregnant or already had one. We even had a teen pregnancy center for fathers, mothers, and upcoming mothers.

    Mass Comm
    11:00 a.m.

  18. David Laird MCCNM 101 said

    I don’t believe that it is the sex on TV that is promoting teen pregnancy. The sex on TV is promoting teen sex. Most of the sex on TV is safe sex. It would be argued by several people that anything promoting sex is promoting pregnancy as well, but nowadays that is not true. Broadcasters and programmers have a responsibility to the public, however, so therefore I expect to see several changes in programming in the coming years. I expect to see less sex on TV because the whole goal of programming is to attract and retain viewers and they will therefore go with what the public wants to increase and retain viewership.

  19. Adam Winick said

    Adam Winick
    (9:30 T TH)
    MCNNM 101

    This is talking about a study saying that TV is a instigating force to teen pregnancy. But i believe that could be true for people that believe everything that is on the television screen. personally i believe that the way the kids are educated and raised are the reason for the increase of teen pregnancies. By this i mean that sex is a very touchy subject. The fault for creating sex into such a “big thing” among today’s society and culture is the reasoning for this problem. Sex has been built up to this big thing among teen culture. The change in culture and society and education are the main forces to the situation of teen pregnancy.

  20. JDraper said

    I think that an interesting study would be to take the individuals who showed a strong correlation between teen pregnancy and television watched, and ask them if they were aware that pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases are some consequences of unprotected sex. Although some of the present day television shows may not clearly outline all implications of sex, I am confident that most of the girls who got pregnant knew that if they had sex, pregnancy was a possibility. I learned all I needed to know in sex ed. in 5th grade. Although “Kerrie Bradshaw” from Sex and the City may not have gotten pregnant, it is a poor excuse for these girls to blame television for their carelessness in unprotected sexual activity.

  21. Vincent House said

    I think that we as a society needs to stop thinking of sex as something wrong and bad, because many kids at a early age learn bout sex, when i was in 5th grade the had a sex ed class. i feel that if we educated kid at a early age and teach the about the consequences instead of threats we wouldn’t have to blame TV for depicting something that happens in real life all the time

    Vincent House

  22. Corinne Meyerson said

    I agree completely with what this article is saying. So often on TV, the actors have hot, wild and crazy sex, but where is the condom? Where is the mentioning of the women also being on birth control? As it is widely known that condoms often break. I am not saying sex or implications of sex should be taken from TV, yet perhaps take a second to let the audience know in a subtle way that they are being safe and smart about it. Yet, because there is a slim chance of writers changing their ways, parents should teach their children from a young age about sex. What it is and what can happen because of it. Therefore, when watching a show that talks about it or shows some kind of sexuality, the child will know the real truth and realize that the show is purely entertainment.

  23. Joseph Foley said

    I don’t believe that the entertainment industry contributes to children having sex and therefore having a child. I think when someone performs that action they know the risk of having a child or even contracting a disease. Kids are now learning at a younger age the risks of having sex so by just watching it on tv and following the actions is not acceptable. We just need to educate our children on what the risks are so they know before they act.

  24. Deandra said

    I think that to blame teen pregnancy on television portrayal is a bit over the top. I know that I’m probably in the minority here, but hear me out. I think that if a young girl is going to go out and have unprotected sex because of something she saw on a fictional television show, that this is a product of her own character, judgement, and upbringing. Obviously a young girl who would base her life off of a Sex and the City episode is a little naive.

    Yes I believe that sex education needs to be a lot different. It’s not even a requirement in most high schools now. There are a lot of factors out there contributing to teen pregnancy and tv is merely one outlet for the media to spotlight.

  25. Dwayne Wright said

    If you ask me I don’t think that sex on television promotes teen pregnancy. I don’t think they should blame television for our teen pregnancy rate rising. I think that there is a little teenage sex being promoted on TV but I can say that safe sex is being promoted. I also believe just because sex is being promoted that doesn’t necessary mean that pregnancy is being promoted, but I do agree that the age is getting younger and younger as the year go with the teen pregnancy but I also agree that TV isn’t the reason.

  26. Jon R. Peltier said

    Well sex on TV has nothing to with the teen pregnancy rate if this is the case the Europeans would have the highest teen pregnancy rate than we do because over there sex is part of the media. In Venice there are channels of the News that is done in the nude so if that is not promoting sex what else is. As far as the sex on TV it not the TV that need to change it is the education of the young adults that need to be change. Sex is a part of life and they need to teach the children what sex is and what happen when you have sex.

  27. Amanda Olds said

    I believe that it is a real problem that teens are seeing sex on TV. Without the fact that it is being portrayed in the wrong sense, I think that something should be done. Maybe better censoring, not only by the television companies but also the parents at home. Another thing that could help prevent teen pregnancy, even if the TV censorship does not change would be to encourage all parents to have “the talk” with their kids. Being informed by a reliable source is one of the best tactics.

  28. Orion Boughton said

    I am fairly familiar with “That 70’s Show” and “Friends”. If my memory serves me correctly the character “Donna” on “That 70’s Show” was on birth control and educated “Jackie”, another character about going on birth control herself. I am not saying that sexual content was not a major part on the premises of the show, but that safe sex was advertised more often than unsafe. And in “Friends” I believe that “Rachel” got pregnant and had a baby on the show. That sounds like a life changing event to me. “Ross” also had a kid from a previous marriage. I do think that sexual content is overdone in many TV shows, and displays no consequences. But I think better examples for these shows could have been picked. As For “Sex and the City” I agree completely.

  29. spiffysam said

    I don’t watch much TV, but I can certainly see where they’re getting the idea that it has an impact on teen pregnancy. When you watch shows like that that depict sex without consequences it doesn’t defer teens from having sex. If you combine the non-deference of those shows with the sexual encouragement on MTV and other channels, I can definitely see why so many of our teens are pregnant. If you don’t seriously think about sex, and the consequences that could go with it, you’re more likely to suffer from those consequences, because you didn’t take precautions. I believe that they should teach sex-education at a younger age in schools, but parents should not rely on the school system to educate their children about sex, there has to be parental involvement as well. Parents should most certainly not encourage sex, but parents cannot stop their kids from having sex, no matter how much they try. So though they shouldn’t encourage it, they should assist in educating their children about safe sex practices, and if needed provide birth control to their children. They cannot stop their kids from having sex, but they can reduce teen pregnancy if they become more invloved.

  30. Lauren Dominick said

    As much as I hate to say it the rate of teen pregnancy is rising not because of what is being shown on TV, but because of bad parenting. It isn’t the media’s job to say what children should and should not watch. If you as a parent say that your child should not watch a show because it has sexually explicit content then that’s on you. People can’t blame the media for all the mistakes they make as a parent. It’s really getting old.

  31. Lacey Chesser said

    I agree with the article, movies always show people falling through doors and into beds without a word. this is a bad image for kids to see, they might just think “hey I can do that when I am older”. This might be avoided if parents speak to their children about this and if they do not want them to be exposed to it, then they should use a v-chip or some other means of censoring them. When tv shows or movies have scenes like this they do show a rating so the parent know when something is not appropriate so this should not be hard for parents to stop thier kids from seeing it.

  32. Brianna Gassner said

    Lauren is absolutely right in her comment. The media doesn’t get paid to show “family appropriate content” they get paid to show what sells. And for decades now, sex is the number 1 selling content in the world. Teen girls who watch “16 and Pregnant” are only more likely to get pregnant if they haven’t been brought up knowing to wait to have sex. Girls brought up in a family that teaches them basic morals, are less likely to get knocked up because they have PARENTS WHO CARE! Oh man what a ground breaking discovery! Good parenting results in good kids????????

  33. Lashanaye James said

    What people are forgetting is that it isn’t only on television, it’s on the news, when kids attend school, in certain books, internet, etc. I don’t think that tv shows truly take interest in what children are watching or if they do before the show their is a rating. Parents should be more aware of what their children are watching. But my friends and I talk about this all the time and we always say “tv is a fantasy land, they only show the good, never show the negative outcome”. But I don’t feel like this will ever been changed so, parents have to step up and actually talk to their children about sex even when they don’t want to. Kids need to be informed!

  34. Whitney Johnson said

    I think that some of the shows that are on tv definitly have a major influence on both teen pregnancy. Tv has become very uncensored compared to what it used to be, and there is no care as to what the viewers see. On the otherhand, there are shows that have turn the teen pregnancy into a postitive situation by making it educational, in which shows like “Teen Mom” and “Sixteen and Pregnant” illustrate the reality of having a child at a young age (its not all that its cracked up to be or what some television may make it seem to be).

  35. Deann Pantoya said

    I believe that sexual content on tv does promote sexual activity to some degree to younger viewers. However I don’t believe that the increase of teen pregnancy rate is due to the sexual activity shown on time today. But like the blog said there are shows out there that do talk about sex like “That 70’s Show”, ” “Sex in the City”, and “Secret Life of the American Teenager”. On the other side though there are some shows that talk about the reality of having a child as a teenagers, like MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “Sixteen and Pregnant”. Along with those shows showing what it is like living with a baby at a young age, the show also has advertisement for teens on how to have safe sex. There are also a lot of condom and aids commercials to help teach kids about safe sex.

    As for the parents I believe it is their job to monitor what their child watches. If they believe that what their child is watching is making a bad influence for them, then they probably shouldn’t be letting them watch it.

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