Adolescent Sexuality in the Media

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Adolescent Sexuality in the Media
Adolescent sexuality refers to sexual feelings behaviors and the development in adolescents. Adolescents tread a narrow path between childhood and adulthood. Most are not treated like children, but they are not afforded the full status of adulthood either. They face an identity crisis in which they must figure out who they are and what they want to become. The also face difficult decisions pertaining to their sexuality and with people of the same sex and opposite sex. Teen pregnancy and parenthood are major concerns for many of our adolescents. Most teens have a belief that the media encourages and pressures them to have sex. The sexual content that is in the media today can have an enormous effect on any age group. Adolescents may be more susceptible than others. They may be exposed to sexual content in the media during a developmental period when gender roles, sexual attitudes, and sexual behaviors are being shaped.1 Adolescents are usually at risk due to their cognitive skills which allows them to critically analyze messages from the media and make their decisions based on future outcomes. At this point of time in their lives their decisions are not fully developed. Television and other media represent one of the most important and under recognized influences on children and adolescent’s health and their behavior. This impact should be raising serious concern for not just parents and educators, but for physicians, public health advocates, and politicians as well. Research has demonstrated that young people are heavy consumers of sexually-oriented media including TV, broadcast and cable channels, videos, movies, magazines, and, more recently, the internet (Brown et al.1996). Content analyses have also demonstrated that broadcast television contains a high, growing and increasingly explicit dose of sexual messages, and that a low proportion of such messages display or model either restraint or contraceptive use (Kunkel, et al.1997; Greenberg et al. 1997). However, scientific evidence has not yet established a causal relationship between exposure to sexual content in the media and young people's attitudes concerning sexuality and their own sexual behaviors. Other analyses of broadcast media content indicate that, on average, teenaged viewers see 143 incidents of sexual behavior on network television at prime time each week, 4 with portrayals of three to four times as many sexual activities occurring between unmarried partners as between spouses.5 As much as 80% of all movies shown on network or cable television stations have sexual content.2 An analysis of music videos indicates that 60% portray sexual feelings and impulses, and substantial minority display provocative clothing and sexually suggestive body movements.6 Analyses of media content also show that sexual messages on television are almost universally presented in a positive light, with little discussion of the potential risks of unprotected sexual intercourse and few portrayals of adverse consequences.7, 8 Survey data show that adolescents' access to and use of media as sources of information are substantial. In a national study,4 high school students reported an average of 2.9 television sets, and 1.3 of 10 (13%) of American children reported living in homes with two or more televisions, 97% had videocassette recorders in their homes, 75% had access to cable television, and more than half had a television set in their own rooms.3 Further, more than 80% of adolescents report that their peers find out some or a lot about sex, drugs, and violence from television shows, movies, and other entertainment media.9 About 10% of teens acknowledge that they have learned more about the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) from these media sources than from parents, school personnel, clergy, or friends.9. Data like this is alarming, however, but is the media as a whole actually responsible for episodes of, child...
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