July 7, 2005

Sexual Images Harm Kids

New study finds that explicit media can lead to permissive attitudes about sex.
 http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0037107.cfm

Many instinctively know that lots of sex in the media is bad for kids, but a lack of scientific evidence has prevented change. Now, a study from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health may prompt needed reform.

The study, conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 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 health-care provider should be very troubled by these findings," said Gary L. Rose, M.D., 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 people."

Highlights of the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, include:

• 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.

Few family advocates are holding their breath waiting for change, though, which is why Tom Neven of Plugged In magazine looks to parents.

"The most important one is the parents have to screen," he said, "have to know what it is that's out there and what their kids are either watching and listening to or want to watch and listen to."




Media Impact Study Press Release

Comprehensive Review of Research into Impact of Sex in 
Media on Youth Reveals Troubling Signs, Gaps in Knowledge

http://www.medinstitute.org/media/index.htm

AUSTIN, TEXAS (July 5, 2005) – The most comprehensive review of research conducted to date into the impact sexual imagery in media has on youth, published today in the Journal of Pediatrics, reveals a dangerous lack of knowledge about how young people are being affected.


The study, conducted by S. Liliana Escobar-Chaves, DrPH, 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 Gary L. Rose, MD, 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 people.”


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

*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. 61 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.” Founder and chairman of The Medical Institute, Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD, calls for further research while strongly urging healthcare professionals to take immediate action.