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High Exposure to TV Sex Affects Teens
  Associated Press
Sept 7, 2004
Lindsey Tanner
Children ages 12-17 who watched a lot of television with sexual content - ranging from innuendos to depiction of sex - were around twice as likely to start having intercourse in a follow-up year as those with limited exposure to televised sex, according to new research. Among those surveyed, teens with high exposure to TV sex also had a lower but significantly increased risk of beginning non-intercourse behavior, such as passionate kissing or oral sex. In addition, "Exposure to TV that included only talk about sex was associated with the same risks as exposure to TV that depicted sexual behavior," Rand Corp. behavioral scientist Rebecca Collins and colleagues wrote.
About two-thirds of all entertainment-based shows depict sexual content, and previous research has shown that teens watch three hours of television per day on average. The researchers proposed that TV "may create the illusion that sex is more central to daily life than it truly is and may promote sexual initiation as a result."
Collins said sexual content on TV rarely addressed the negative aspects of sex, such as STDs and unwanted pregnancy, which "sends kids the message that everybody's having sex and nobody's thinking about responsibility and nothing bad ever happens."
For the study, 1,792 adolescents were surveyed via telephone in 2001 and again in 2002. After devising a list of 23 popular shows that feature abundant sexual content, researchers asked the teens how often they watched those shows. Participants were also asked whether they engaged in various sexual activities. Results from the two surveys were then compared. The number of teens who reported having had intercourse rose from about 18 percent to 36 percent, and those who reported having had other sexual activity increased from 62 percent to 75 percent, said Collins.
While being older, having older friends, and getting poor grades were all associated with increased likelihood of having intercourse, TV remained a strong factor, the researchers reported.
The study, "Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior," was published in Pediatrics (2004;114(3):e280-e289;doi:10.1542/peds.2003-1065-L)

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