ROME, AUG. 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The media really does influence adolescents’ behavior and early exposure to sexual content in the movies leads them to commence sexual activity at an earlier age and to take more risks.
This was the conclusion of a study just published in the journal Psychological Science, titled “Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking.”
It started by noting how it is documented that the media influences adolescent behavior in such areas as alcohol and tobacco use, but that less is known about its impact on sexual behavior.
Starting sexual activity at an earlier age is associated with a greater number of partners and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. More than 9 million new cases of sexual diseases occur annually among adolescents in the United States, the paper observed.
“Popular movies provide adolescents with a wealth of sexual exposure, much of which may promote risk behaviors,” the authors commented.
They cited a survey that looked at movies released from 1950 to 2006. It showed that more than 84% contained some sexual content. In addition the survey found that the level of sexual explicitness of PG-13 and R-rated movies has increased in the past decade.
Not only are adolescents influenced by what they see, but one survey found that 57% of those aged 14-16 use the media as a primary source of sexual information.
The study published in Psychological Science looked at movie sexual exposure (MVE) in those aged under 16. A longitudinal study was carried out over the period June 2003 to October 2009.
It consisted in a random telephone survey of 6,522 adolescents, aged 10 to 14. After the initial contact they were followed up three subsequent times.
They found that higher exposure to explicit sexual content was an accurate predictor of riskier sexual behavior. The authors said that this study confirms previous ones and also found that this exposure, “has a lasting influence on risky sexual behaviors in adulthood.”
Reducing adolescent’s viewing of sexually explicit content “would delay their sexual debut and also reduce their engagement in risky sexual behaviors later in life,” they concluded.