Media vs. Parents: The Influence of Teenage Sexuality
Marissa K. Witt
ENG122: English Composition II
Instructor Sara Keller
November 19, 2012
Media is everywhere we look. The various outlets available include television, movies, music, magazines, computers, internet, social networking sites, cell phones, and IPads, etc. It is safe to say that we are a generation that is consumed by media. Most people cannot leave their homes without watching the morning news, checking Facebook, sending an email, or making sure their phone is with them and adults are not the only ones that are consumed with media. Babies as young as six months old are put in front of a TV to entertain them or to teach them how to talk and communicate through Baby Einstein videos. Children are introduced to Disney movies where all of the story lines include a princess trying to find the love of her life, a prince, and living happily ever after. As children grow in to pre-teens (“tweens”) and teenagers, they look to these various media outlets to teach and guide them on how to become adults and what to expect as they enter adulthood. Magazines, like Teen Magazine, idolize singers and actors as role models, have quizzes to see if that shy boy in class has a crush on you, and even give dating advice. More and more, teens are gathering information about sex and relationships through such outlets rather than turning to their parents and educators to find these answers. This is where the growing concern that media’s influence amongst teenage sexuality far outweighs that of their peers, parents and teachers. It is a widely known fact that the U.S. ranks number one in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) as a result of the staggering effect of media on our adolescents. In the first portion of this paper, we will review the various media outlets available and the sexual content therein. Next, we will talk about the statistics and percentages of adolescent pregnancy and STI rates in the United States. Then, we will review how well the positive sexual messages in media correlate with adolescent abstinence and finally, we will look at the crucial role that parents and educators play in the behaviors of America’s adolescents. We will then conclude by assessing all of the available data about what can be done to reduce and combat the rate at which adolescents are learning about and engaging in sexual activity. The methods of collecting the data to prove this theory included reviewing multiple studies already done on media’s influence on teenagers, interviews with parents of teenagers to get their opinions and possible remedies on the exposure that teens have with media, examining peer-reviewed papers, and researching articles written by professors in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. The majority of this research was conducted within the Ashford Library, Pew Research Center, and Google Scholar.
There have been several studies that “purport a connection with sexy media exposure and adolescents’ sexual behavior” which has prompted growing alarm and criticism of the entertainment industry for its corrupting influence on youth (Steinberg & Monahan, 2011). To a few, it seems as if adolescents are seeking out media to learn about sex. They theorize that teens who believe that they are ready for or are interested in sex might seek out media that depicts sexual acts and information. While this may be the argument of some, others believe that media pushes sex on our children, seemingly without any true consequences. This debate of association between sexual television and sexual behavior has been mired in a “chicken vs. egg debate” (Schooler, Sorsoli, Kim & Tolman, 2009). Another notion is that adolescents watch TV programs, listen to music and read magazines that they expect to be popular among all teens, in such a way as to fit in with their peers. Still, whatever the view on the situation may be, it is...
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