Media's impact on teen sexual behaviors, teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections


Media's impact on teen sexual behaviors, teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections

With the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western Hemisphere and 25% of teens having had a sexually transmitted infection, we should be paying careful attention to media messages about sexuality and contraception, says a revised policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media," published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Web sites and TV shows that are well-liked by adolescents, and the way sex is portrayed in them may be major factors in the initiation of sexual intercourse, the authors write.

Teenage pregnancy rates in the United States are higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere and considerably higher than in Japan or the European Union.

A CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) study reported that 1 in every 4 teenagers has had an STI (sexually transmitted disease), also known as an STD (sexually transmitted disease).

The AAP writes that:

Just as inappropriate media messages can be detrimental to teens, socially responsible programming can be a powerful vehicle for sexual health education.

The new recommendations listed in the AAP's "Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media" include:

  • The pediatrician can help both parents and the teenager recognize how important this issue is by asking two or more media-related questions during a medical visit: 1. How much time do you spend daily with entertainment media? 2. Is there a TV or Internet access in your bedroom?
  • Children's traditional media use should be supervised, but also parents and pediatricians should understand social networking sites so that they can advise children about their use.
  • The entertainment industry should be directed towards the production of more responsible sexual content that focuses on the interpersonal relationship in which sexual activity takes place.
  • Advertisers should not be using sex to promote products.
  • Medical professionals and the authorities should encourage the broadcasting industry to place advertising for birth control products.
  • Advertisements which promote erectile dysfunction products should not be allowed to be on air before 10pm.
  • Parents can use media story lines as teachable moments to discuss sex with their teens instead of doing "the big talk."
The AAP says there should be a national task force on children, adolescents and the media to be convened by child advocacy groups in conjunction with the CDC or National Institutes of Health.

"Policy Statement - Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media"

FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS

Published online August 30, 2010

PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1544)

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