New Study on the Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviours

AUSTIN, TX, February 20, 2004 ( - How little we know about the effect of sexual content in the media on young people was revealed Friday as The Medical Institute for Sexual Health released Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviours.  The study is the most comprehensive review of the research into the impact of sexual imagery in the media on youth yet completed. It reveals a woeful lack of knowledge about what the barrage of sex in the media really means for children and youth.  “All we really know is that kids are over-exposed to sex,” commented Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., M.D., president of The Medical Institute. “One thing this study makes clear - sexual imagery and content is finding children and teens everywhere. Even if they tried, kids can’t escape it.”  Dr. McIlhaney referred to data showing that the average teen watches 3 to 4 hours of television every day. For every hour of television watched by teens, there are, on average, 6.7 scenes including sexual topics, and about 10 percent of these scenes show couples engaged in sexual intercourse.  He went on to note that 22 percent of teen-oriented radio segments contain sexual content; 20 percent of these range from rather to very explicit. An analysis of the top-selling CDs in 1999 found that 42 percent contain sexual contact, 41 percent of which is either pretty explicit or very explicit. Sixty-one percent of teens using computers “surf the net,” and 14 percent report seeing something they wouldn’t want their parents to know about. “But our lack of understanding of how this impacts youth is stunning, and should scare any parent.”  The study, an extensive systematic review of the relevant biomedical and social science literature available over a 20 year period, reveals that only 19 of 2,522 research-related documents (less than 1 percent) involving media and youth address the effects of mass media on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviour.

“The outrage spurred by Janet and Justin’s morality malfunction should be this: We are pumping tons of sex into our family rooms and our kids’ bedrooms, yet we haven’t done a thing to scientifically explore what it might be doing to our kids,” concluded McIlhaney.  Read the report “Pope Warns Parents of Grave Responsibility to Protect Children from Harmful Media” at:

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