|Lock up your daughters, turn off TV||Feb. 28, 2009|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|Written by: DOCTOR GIFFORD-JONES|
"Do you know where your children are this evening?" It's a question we often hear these days about parents who fail to keep an eye on their children's whereabouts. But suppose you're a diligent parent and they're in your own home. How safe are they when watching television?
The question of how much in-your-face sexuality on TV adversely affects teenagers has been debated by psychologists for years. Now, Anita Chandra, a behavioural scientist at the Rand Corporation, answers this question. She reports in the Journal of Pediatrics that the amount of time teenagers spend turning the channel to risque T V increases the risk of pregnancy before age 20.
Researchers also analyzed the sexual content of 23 TV shows and calculated how often teenagers were exposed to characters kissing, touching and having sex. They found that adolescent girls who spent the most hours watching sexual shows were twice as likely to get pregnant.
Earlier studies had shown that teenagers who watch racy TV shows were more likely to become sexually active at an earlier age. But this is the first study to show that sexual content is a powerful factor in unwanted teenage pregnancies.
According to Chandra, sexual content on U.S. television has doubled in recent years, coinciding with rising teenage pregnancy rates. This may explain why the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate is double that of other industrialized nations.
The revelation that Bristol Palin, the 17 year-old daughter of GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was five months pregnant placed teenage pregnancy squarely in the spotlight. The pregnancies of numerous students at Gloucester high school in Massachusetts also caused a nationwide focus on this development.
Recently, I had a first-hand experience of how much "off-with-your-panties TV" affects young children. Two granddaughters, six and eight years of age, were visiting us and had brought along a family-rated TV video to watch after dinner. The plot started innocently, but later showed a teenage party. A final scene shows an overly amorous teenager trying to pull his girlfriend's panties off. As I'm starting to squirm and wonder what in the devil happens next, he's suddenly interrupted by an enraged adult. I'm also thinking, "What's going on in the head of my six-year-old granddaughter?"
I would guess plenty is going on, and it's only going to increase considerably in time. But whether one likes or dislikes what is shown on videos and TV, it's too late to reverse the custom.
Chandra's study showed that having just one parent helps increase the chances of unplanned teenage pregnancy. There's also an increased risk in an African-American household or if a child has discipline problems. I would also add it's more likely if parents don't discuss sexuality privately with children.
Psychologist David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, says studies show that only 19% of U.S. teens are able to talk openly with an adult about sex. Today, with many schools not offering sex education, that leaves the media as a sex educator. Walsh adds, "For a kid to whom no one's talking about sex, and then he watches sitcoms on TV where sex is presented as what cool people do, the outcome is obvious".
In the past I've often had parents send teenage daughters to me to discuss sexual matters. But as I watched my granddaughter I thought maybe the time has come for pediatricians to start talking about sex to those who watch "off-with-your panties" videos at six years of age.
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