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Nope, media does not influence teenagers’ sexual conduct

Contradicting the widespread belief that media influences teenagers’ sexual conduct, a new study claims that media is in no major way responsible for initiating teens early into sex or other sex-related malpractices.

sex and relationships Updated: Jul 01, 2016 19:45 IST
ANI
Teen Sex

Media neither contributes to the early initiation of sex among young people, nor to their sexual conduct more generally, say researchers.(Shutterstock)

Contradicting the widespread belief that media influences teenagers’ sexual conduct, a new study claims that media is in no major way responsible for initiating teens early into sex or other sex-related malpractices.

Researcher Christopher Ferguson of the Stetson University said that establishing a link between media and the sexual behaviour of young people is in fact premature, adding, “The media neither contributes to the early initiation of sex among young people, nor to their sexual conduct more generally.”

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Ferguson’s team therefore conducted a meta-analysis of 22 previous studies that all measured the influence of some form of media on an outcome related to teenagers’ sexual behaviour, such as pregnancy, risky sexual behaviour or the initiation of sex. The studies in total took into account the views of more than 22,000 participants younger than 18 years old.

Only a very weak link was found between the type of media that teenagers viewed and their eventual sexual behaviour. It also plays only a very minor role in the initiation of sex. The researchers do not exclude the possibility that sexy media may still influence sexual attitudes, but say that this does not seem to carry over into actual behaviour.

When teens do not get the needed information from parents or schools, media may become the only source of information on sexuality. (Shutterstock)

“Evidence for an association between media and sexual behaviour is minimal,” said Ferguson, who believes that parents and peers play a much greater role in how teenagers’ moral values around sexuality develop over time.

The results do not exclude the possibility that media may have some influence on at-risk youth who are deprived of other socialization influences. “That is to say, when information from parents or schools are lacking, media may become the only source of information on sexuality,” explains Ferguson.

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He warns that simply making the media the scapegoat and giving it considerable public attention might distract parents and policy makers from more pressing and important issues related to teen sexuality.

According to him, parents must be encouraged to discuss sexuality with their teens, proper sex education programs must be implemented in schools, and ways should be examined by which peer networks can be used to promote safe sex.

“The encouraging message from our results is that the media is unlikely to thwart parental efforts to socialize children should parents take the initiative to talk directly to their children about sex,” Ferguson added.

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