Kids watching adult-stuff on TV slyly during childhood may have sex early, according to a new study.
These findings by Children's Hospital Boston (CHB) are based on a longitudinal study tracking 754 children aged six to 18 years, of which 365 were males and 389 were females.
"Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents," said Hernan Delgado, fellow in the division of Adolescent / Young Adult Medicine at CHB and study co-author.
"Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life," he added.
The study tracked participants during two stages in life: first during childhood, and again five years later when their ages ranged from 12 to 18.
At each stage, TV programmes and movies viewed, and the amount of time spent watching them over a sample weekday and weekend day were logged.
The programme titles were used to determine what content was intended for adults. The participants' onset of sexual activity was then tracked during the second stage.
According to the findings, when the youngest children in the sample - six to eight - were exposed to adult-targeted TV and movies, they were more likely to have sex earlier when compared those who watched less adult-targeted content.
The study found that for every hour the youngest group of children watched adult-targeted content over the two sample days, their chances of having sex during early adolescence increased by 33 percent.
Meanwhile, the reverse was not found to be true - that is, becoming sexually active in adolescence did not subsequently increase youth's viewing of adult-targeted TV and movies.
Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships.
"Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain," added David Bickham, staff scientist at the Centre on Media and Child Health and co-author of the study.
The researchers encourage parents to follow current American Academy of Paediatrics viewing guidelines such as no TV in the bedroom, no more than one to two hours of screen time a day, and to co-view TV programmes and discuss its content with children, said a CHB release.
The findings were presented at the Paediatric Academic Societies meeting in Baltimore.