It Seems Today that All You See is Violence in Movies and…

August 31, 2010

Television and Internet use by adolescents can play a significant role in the initiation of sexual intercourse, according to the AAP, which has released new guidelines urging pediatricians to address this issue with both teens and parents.

New evidence shows that the media used frequently by adolescents could play a significant role in the initiation of sexual intercourse, according to the AAP, which has released new guidelines urging pediatricians to address this issue with both teens and parents.

Peter and Lois Griffin (of The Family Guy fame) aren’t the only ones wondering, “Where are those good old-fashioned values on which we used to rely.”

With adolescents spending more than seven hours a day on average with various forms of media—including television, music, movies, and the Internet—often without adults, there are more reasons than ever to pay attention to media messages about sexuality and contraception, says the AAP. In an updated set of guidelines—“Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media,” published in Pediatrics—the organization is urging physicians and parents to keep a closer eye on what teens are watching, and advocate for the use of socially responsible programming as “a powerful vehicle for sexual health education.”

“There is a major disconnect between what mainstream media portray—casual sex and sexuality with no consequences—and what children and teenagers need—straightforward information about human sexuality and the need for contraception when having sex,” said the Council on Communications and Media, authors of the report. “Television, film, music, and the Internet are all becoming increasingly sexually explicit, yet information on abstinence, sexual responsibility, and birth control remains rare.”

The Council believes it is irresponsible to promote “abstinence-only” sex education when it has been shown to be ineffective; according to a recent CDC study, the US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western hemisphere, and one in four teenagers has had a sexually transmitted infection.

The AAP’s updated recommendations are as follows:

  • Pediatricians can help parents and teens recognize the importance of this issue by asking at least two media-related questions during office visits: 1) How much time do you spend daily with entertainment media? 2) Is there a TV or Internet access in your bedroom?
  • In addition to supervising their children’s traditional media use, parents (as well as pediatricians) should understand social networking sites and counsel kids about using them.
  • The entertainment industry should be encouraged to produce more programming that contains responsible sexual content and that focuses on the interpersonal relationship in which sexual activity takes place. Meanwhile, advertisers should stop using sex to sell products.
  • Pediatricians and the government should urge and encourage the broadcast industry to air advertisements for birth control products.
  • Ads for erectile dysfunction drugs, which can be confusing to young viewers, should not air until after 10 p.m.
  • Parents can use media story lines as teachable moments to discuss sex with their teens instead of doing “the big talk.”

The statement also calls for creation of a national task force on children, adolescents and the media to be convened by child advocacy groups in conjunction with the CDC or National Institutes of Health.

More resources:

  • CDC: Sexual Risk Behaviors
  • HCPLive.com Conference Coverage: Computer-based Interactive Counseling Tools Can Empower Teen Girls with Diabetes to Make Healthy Reproductive Decisions
  • AAP: Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth
  • Pediatrics Now: Lessons From The Gloucester Teens: Babies Are Responsibility!