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Kids Watching Adult TV May have Sex Earlier

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ScienceDaily: Early onset of sexual activity among teens may relate to the amount of adult content children were exposed to during their childhood, according to a new study released by Children's Hospital Boston. Based on a longitudinal study tracking children from age six to eighteen, researchers found that the younger children are exposed to content intended for adults in television and movies, the earlier they become sexually active during adolescence.

"Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents," says Hernan Delgado, MD, fellow in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston and lead author of the study. "Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life."

The study consisted of 754 participants, 365 males and 389 females, who were tracked during two stages in life: first during childhood, and again five years later when their ages ranged from 12 to 18-years-old. At each stage, the television programs and movies viewed, and the amount of time spent watching them over a sample weekday and weekend day were logged. The program titles were used to determine what content was intended for adults. The participants' onset of sexual activity was then tracked during the second stage.

According to the findings, when the youngest children in the sample--ages 6 to 8-years-old--were exposed to adult-targeted television and movies, they were more likely to have sex earlier when compared those who watched less adult-targeted content. The study found that for every hour the youngest group of children watched adult-targeted content over the two sample days, their chances of having sex during early adolescence increased by 33 percent. Meanwhile, the reverse was not found to be true-that is, becoming sexually active in adolescence did not subsequently increase youth's viewing of adult-targeted television and movies.

"Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships. Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain," adds David Bickham, PhD, staff scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health and co-author of the study. "Children learn from media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendos, our research suggests they are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life."

The researchers encourage parents to follow current American Academy of Pediatrics viewing guidelines such as no television in the bedroom, no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time a day, and to co-view television programs and have an open dialogue about its content with your children. They also suggest that--while the results demonstrate a longitudinal relationship--more research needs be done to understand how media influences children's growing awareness of human relationships and sexual behavior.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen May 8, 2009, 6:34 PM

This seems like common sense, why do we need a study for this? It doesn’t really matter anyhow, most parents don’t care what there kids watch because they are NEVER around there kids.

Pat May 8, 2009, 9:26 PM

are automatically set to accept all channels until you set parental controls with a password. Industry Standard should be required to change it to accept only G rated shows until a parental password is accessed to allow additional programming.

About 2 years after I stopped setting parental controls on my kids TV’s they told me that when we had an electricity outage their TV’s reversed to No password and allowed all access. I had no idea. It’s a good thing I only allowed 26 channel cable TV during the summer months in those days. During school time I only subscribed to 13 channels of cable TV so they wouldn’t have access to channels like MTV and the comedy channel.

tom May 8, 2009, 11:51 PM

For some reason I had a black and white tv with cable in my room. If I switched the channels enough I could get channel 4 (showtime or hbo… i think showtime) to come in. I watched a lot of adult TV growing up and I can honestly say it did not cause me to have sex earlier.

Well… I mean sex with another human. My palm got plenty of action.

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