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Study Links Sexual Content On TV To Teen Pregnancy

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, November 03, 2008 3:57 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Teen Pregnancy, Television, Video Games, Sexual Content

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IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / TV watching / author: digitalhallway

Do you know what television programs your teenager watches? If not, you may want to start paying attention.

A new study, in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests teens who watch TV with a lot of sexual content are much more likely then their peers to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant.

A three-year study conducted by researchers at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, is the first to directly associate viewing suggestive television programming with risky sexual behavior by teenagers.

"Exposure to sex on television may influence high rates of teen pregnancy by creating the perception that there is little risk to engaging in sex without using contraceptives and accelerating the initiation of sexual intercourse," said Anita Chandra, a behavioral scientist who led the study.

For the study, researchers’ surveyed teens aged 12 to 17, between 2001 and 2004, asking them about their TV viewing habits, sexual behavior and pregnancy.

Overall, in study findings that included 718 teens, there were 91 were pregnant. The top 10th of teens who watched sexy type programming were at twice the risk of becoming pregnant or causing pregnancy compared to the 10th who watched fewest such programs, the study found.

Participants were asked how often they watched any of more than twenty television shows popular among teenagers at the time or which was found to have sexual content. These shows included That 70s Show, Sex and the City and Friends to name a few.

Since 1991, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have sharply declined, but continue to remain high in comparison to other nations. An estimated one million girls aged 15 to 19 become pregnant, or 20 percent of sexually active females in that age group, each year.

“TV is only one element of media offerings available to teenagers that helps to influence their behavior. We also need to consider what roles the Internet, magazines and music play in teens’ reproductive health,” Chandra said, acknowledging that other factors can also negatively affect teen sex habits.

Another study, also in the November issue of Pediatrics, found teens that play violent video games – a nationwide trend with American children playing an average of 13 hours of video games each week – leads to increased aggressive behavior.

Researchers from Japan and the United States evaluated 1,200 Japanese children and 364 American children ages 9 to 18 years old and found “significant risk factors for physically aggressive behavior later in life, across very different cultures.”

In another story reported by IB, a high school has unanimously voted to allow condoms and birth control pills to be made available at the school.

Across America the “Pregnancy Pact” made national headlines in June when it was reported that 17 high-school girls were expecting babies after entering into an alleged pact to have their babies together that year.

The high school health clinic in Gloucester, Massachusetts had become suspicious after seeing a surge in girls seeking pregnancy tests. Of 1,200 students, 150 pregnancy tests were administered during the school year.

Should parental permission be needed before schools dispense contraceptives? Do you think more schools should take these same actions? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. #


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