Sexuality on Television and Teen Pregnancy

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Essay 3
By
Nichole Crawford

We live in a society that is fueled by instant gratification, exaggerated sexuality and an ever-increasing lack of moral values. Through both poor role models and a highly sexualized media, the adolescents of today are constantly presented with a “lassiez-faire” projection of sex. Rarely do these images accurately portray the very real damage that irresponsibility and a lack of planning can do to the lives of young adults. In fact, some of the portrayals in today’s media do just the opposite, by encouraging teens to behave irresponsibly in regard to their sex lives. This is evidence in reality-style shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant”, which glorify teen sexuality and the consequences it can lead to. By airing television shows about teen moms on television, we are encouraging our young girls to repeat the behavior they see. Glorifying these girls’ choices to have unprotected sex at such a young age is irresponsible.

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind of the turbulence that accompanies adolescence. It is a hormone-filled roller coaster of confusion, excitement and increased interest in sexuality. In recent years, with the internet boom and the increase in available television channels, it has become the norm for sex to be the topic in almost any available programming. From regular primetime shows to cable shows to commercials, sex can be found as a central theme. With children, teenagers, and young adults being exposed to so much sexuality, we can assume that it must have an impact on the development of their sexuality and their sexually-based decisions. The parents of teenagers and their children participated in one study in which they were asked questions in an attempt to determine how the media influenced them sexually (Werner-Wilson 303-311). The results were conclusive, and showed that teens did not believe the media had much influence of their decisions. Their parents, however, expressed more concern. As one parent put it the images on television were “pornography set to music” (page 310) and the concern was widespread that it would have a negative impact on their children’s’ choices. This is a concern that should not be easily dismissed. The study concluded that the teens were essentially unaware of the influence the media had on their decision making (311). Because it is unlikely for teenagers to be able to make a distinction on their own, parents should make an effort to sit with their children on occasion and observe their television choices, to monitor their intake of televised sexuality and discuss the unhealthy or dangerous decisions being made in the programming. Essentially, parents should assume a watchful and careful role in their children’s television decisions. We can hope that by taking such an interest in the television programming their children watch, parents can ward off any negative influence that sexually-charged programming can have on behavior.

Another such study performed in a Northeastern high school had a goal of profiling television use among high school television viewers, with a specific interest in the sexual content in these programs (Schooler, pg. 484-508). The study divided the participants into groups and measured the amount of sexual content in each group’s television consumption. They found that the programs with higher sexual content was viewed by more of the study participants as a whole then were the programs with low sexual content, regardless of the genre of the show (503). This finding suggests that these adolescents do not realize the extent to which they are influences by the sexual content, because they believed that they were choosing the shows based on the genre, not the sexual content. As the author of the study findings puts it: “it appears that some teens who regularly watch higher levels of sexual content may be doing so somewhat inadvertently (504).” This finding further emphasizes the need for parents to take an active...
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