Media Sex is Dangerous for Youth

Study: Media Sex is Dangerous for Youth – By Dean Fosselman

“The leading causes of morbidity and mortality are no longer
infections…but the outcome of acquired health risk behaviors, including
risky sex.”

( The most comprehensive review of research conducted to
date into the impact sexual imagery in media has on youth, published
yesterday in the Journal of Pediatrics, reveals a dangerous lack of
knowledge about how young people are being affected.

The study, conducted by Dr. S. Liliana Escobar-Chaves and colleagues at
the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston under contract to
The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, systematically reviewed all
biomedical and social science research conducted from 1983 to 2004 that
explored effects of mass media on youth. Of the 2,522 research-related
documents examined, less than 1 percent addressed the impact of mass media
on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors.

“Every parent and healthcare provider should be very troubled by these
findings,” commented Dr. Gary L. Rose, president and CEO of The Medical
Institute. “Our children are saturated in sexual imagery. For example, the
average teenager spends three to four hours per day watching television
and 83 percent of the programming most frequently watched by adolescents
contains some sexual content. Yet we have never stopped to ask what effect
all this sexual content in television, the Internet and music has on young

Highlights of the study, “The Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual
Attitudes and Behaviors,” include the following:

Adolescents who are exposed to television with sexual content are more
likely to overestimate the frequency of some sexual behaviors, have more
permissive attitudes toward premarital sex, and, according to one research
study, initiate sexual behavior. However, methodological limitations exist
in all of these studies.

The average American youth spends one-third of each day with various forms
of mass media, mostly without parental oversight.

In 1999, 22 percent of teen-oriented radio segments contained sexual
content. The impact on adolescents is unknown.

Forty-two percent of songs on ten top-selling CDs in 1999 contained sexual
content, 41 percent of which was “very explicit” or “pretty explicit.” The
impact is unknown.

Children aged 9-17 use the Internet 4 days per week and spend almost 2
hours online at a time. Sixty-one percent of teens using computers “surf
the net,” and 14 percent report “seeing something they wouldn’t want their
parents to know about.” No systematic data exist concerning the sexual
content of web sites visited by adolescents, nor is there any research
identifying the impact of such content.

In commentary accompanying the article, Dr. Michael Rich, a physician and
researcher at Harvard Medical School, said, “the leading causes of
morbidity and mortality are no longer infections, congenital disorders,
and cancer, but the outcome of acquired health risk behaviors, including
risky sex.”