Entertainment and news media with high sexual content are fueling the sex life of teenagers, suggests a new study that surveyed 1,017 black and white teens between the ages of 12 and 14.
The study analyzed 308 different television shows, movies, songs and magazines commonly used by teenagers and calculated each teen's “sexual media diet.”
The researchers then followed up with each teen two years later inquiring about his or her sexual behavior.
As it turns out, white teens who were exposed to media with high sexual content were more than twice as likely to have had sex by the time they were 16 years old than were those who were exposed to less. In black teens, the correlation was not as solid.
Teens are looking to entertainment media for sexual information because they don't receive it from other sources, said Jane Brown, a professor at the University of North Carolina and the principal investigator of the study.
"Unfortunately, the media aren't the best sex educators," she pointed out. "The media tend to leave out the crucial three C's: commitment, contraception and consequences."
The scientists found that the best way to protect teenagers from early sexual engagement was for parents to discuss the topic with their kids.
Both black and white teens whose parents disapproved of early sexual activity were less likely to have had sex by the time they were 16, the survey found.
Those who didn't get a clear sense of disapproval from their parents were more likely to engage in sexual activities.
The researchers believe that teachers, parents and media should educate teens in order to give them the proper tools to make decisions about their sexual lives.
"Otherwise, the media will continue to serve as a kind of sexual super peer that doesn't have the best interests of young people in mind," said Brown.
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