Television Shapes Girls Attitude Toward Sex
Media can play an important role in shaping children’s attitudes toward sex, a study in The Journal of Early Adolescence shows. Girls, for instance, are more likely to consider sex at their age (12-13 years) to be normal when they watch a lot of television. However, other factors are important in shaping children’s sexual norms as well. A supportive relationship with parents, pregnancies in school, and having a friend or sibling who is a teen parent all relate to the way young teens look at having sex.
- Girls (12-13 years) are more likely to consider sex at their age as normal if they:
- watch a lot of television;
- have close friends or siblings who are teen parents;
- perceive pregnancy as common in school.
- Boys (12-13 years) are only more likely to perceive sex at their age as normal if they experience pregnancy as something common to happen to girls from school.
- Girls and boys who are having a supportive relationship with their parents are less likely to consider sex at their age to be normative.
- Media literacy educators should pay attention to the socializing role of television with regard to sexual norms and behaviors, especially when educating girls. Moreover, teen pregnancy seems to be an important topic to discuss.
What influences teens’ attitude toward sexual activity?
1736 teens in grade 7 (mean age: 13 years old; 50% boys) from 12 urban schools in the South Central of the US (primarily children from low-income families)
Teens were asked about their attitude toward sexual activity (whether they thought having sex for boys and girls their age was normal behavior). They were also asked about the way they are being raised (whether they have a supportive relationship with their parents), if they had any close friends or brothers and sisters who are teen parents, and if they perceive it common for girls from their school to become pregnant. The amount of TV they watch on average school days was measured as well.
Facts and findings
- Teens who reported to have a supportive relationship with their parents were less likely to agree that having sex for teens their age was normal behavior.
- Some gender differences were found as well:
- Girls were more likely to think that having sex for teens their age was normal behavior, if they had close friends or siblings who were teen parents, if they perceived pregnancy as common in school or if they spent a lot of time on watching TV.
- Boys on the other hand were only more likely to perceive sexual behavior to be normative at their age when they experienced pregnancy as something common to happen to girls from school.
- Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (e.g., exposure to TV, supportive parenting, pregnancies in school, siblings and peers who are teen parents) and effect (e.g., teens’ attitude toward sexual activity). The results only show that some are associated with young teens’ attitude toward sexual activity and cannot say anything about what causes what.