Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
The media is a powerful thing in today’s modern world. No matter where we go, it seems there is always a screen in our face. We have the ability to watch television shows, movies, and advertisements from any device imaginable. Whether it is from the comfort of our living room sofa, watching on our big screen television, or from a chair in a quiet coffee shop, watching from our small cellphone screen, we carry the media with us wherever we go. While this may seem like a luxury and a comfort, at times it can be negative. This is more apparent when dealing with adolescents and teens, especially with the sexuality that floods the media. Without proper parental restriction, sexuality in the media can give youths an unrealistic view about sex, relationships, and even lead to serious issues such as teen pregnancy or the contraction of STDs.
After children reach a certain age, parents typically let them gain independence by allowing them to make their own choices. One of these choices usually involves what they will watch on television. While parents may try to restrict certain shows, as mentioned, teens can carry the media with them using their phones or their computers. The shows that peddle teenage sexuality are usually available. This is unfortunate because these shows propagate many unrealistic views about sexuality. According to Liliana Escobar-Chaves and her associates, who authored an article published in Journal of Adolescence, exposure to sexual media before an adolescent is sexually mature can lead to problems with sexuality later in life (2005). The media glamorizes sexuality, making it appear to be something perfect, that must be camera ready every time. The media also silently encourages multiple sexual partners while simultaneously alluding to the idea that there are no consequences for these actions. Teens see this and it only furthers the psychological ideal of the personal fable, which states bluntly, “that will never happen to me, I am different.” The youth may begin acting promiscuously. Escobar-Chaves and her associates also found that youths who watch heightened amounts of sexually charged media are more likely to experiment with sex earlier, as well as drugs and alcohol (2005).
Sexualized media also gives teens an unrealistic view of relationships. Alison Parkes and her associates found that media often uses sex to highlight love within relationships (2013). It is an easy instrument to use within a storyline: two people fall in love and instead of showing courtship or a long dating sequence; they show a whirlwind sex scene. However, they do so rapidly and often. This perpetuates promiscuity again, as well as the idea that if a person sleeps with you, they love you. Emotions intertwine with physical actions and teens begin to understand that one means the other. Teens are often not emotional mature enough to experience the physical and psychological combination that sex within a relationship entails but still believe, because of what they have seen, that because they are having sex, they must be in love. This leads to very dramatic break ups, and heightened rates of promiscuity as the teen tries to show their “love” to somebody else (2013).
Unfortunately, emotional confusion and promiscuity are not the only tolls that sex in the media can have on teens. Janine Walker, author of “Does Watching Sex on Television Influence Teens’ Sexual Activity?” found that the consequences could become very serious. The media is not quick to explain the harsh consequences of promiscuity, such as pregnancy and STDs, nor are many shows quick to express how one can protect themselves from these consequences. The shows promote promiscuity and encourage early experimentation with sex. Essentially, teens are experimenting with their sexuality at younger ages but they are doing so without being educated. Because of this, the teenage pregnancy rates have risen by 6% in the last four years and the rates of teens contracting an STD has risen by a dramatic 24% (2013).
I do not agree entirely that the media is a monster. Many could do without the sexuality, but teen’s actions are not the media’s fault. It is also not the media’s fault that teens are doing so while being uneducated. That is the fault of parents. If parents were more involved in their children’s lives and were able to put the media’s content into context, teens would understand it better. They would be able to base the context in reality and make better choices. The media could tone down everything: sexuality, violence, depressing new reports, but the real problem is that parents are not involved enough in their children’s lives to know what they are watching or how they are interpreting it.
In sum, sex in the media can have a very damaging impact on teens. It can distort the reality in which they should be looking at sexuality and sexual relationships. It can also confuse them in terms of how they should be connecting love, sex, and emotions within their own relationships. Worst of all, the media does not properly warn teens about possible consequences. As a result, teens experiment earlier and end up pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease. However, this is technically not the media’s fault. Parents should grant their children the right to independence but they should also be attentive. They should not only be available to explain complicated concepts to their child, but they should insist on doing so. If parents make the decision to allow their children to be more independent, they should also make the decision to be more involved. The media is entertainment, not a parent.
Escobar-Chaves, L., Tortolero, S., Markham, C., Low, B., Eitel, P., & Thickstun, P. (2005). Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors. Journal of Pediatrics, 303-326.
Parkes, A., Wight, D., Hunt, K., Henderson, M., & Sargent, J. (2013). Are sexual media exposure, parental restrictions on media use and co-viewing TV and DVDs with parents and friends associated with teenagers' early sexual behaviour? Journal of Adolesence, 1121-1133.
Walker, J. (2010, September 27). Does Watching Sex on Television Influence Teens’ Sexual Activity? Retrieved April 11, 2014, from Rand Corporationg.