07 July 2016

Media may have little effect on teens' sexual behaviour

A study found that parents and peers have a much greater influence on teens' sexual behaviour than sexy movies, television and other media.

Sexy movies, television and other media have little effect on teens' sexual behaviour, according to a study that challenges a common belief among parents and policymakers.

Only a weak link

Researchers analysed 22 studies of the influence of media on teens' behaviour, including when they start having sex and whether they engage in risky sex. The studies, which also examined teen pregnancy, included more than 22,000 participants younger than 18.

The researchers found only a weak link between media and teen sexual behaviour.

"Evidence for an association between media and sexual behaviour is minimal," said study co-author Christopher Ferguson, co-chair of psychology at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

Read: Parental guidance makes teens more cautious about sex

Parents and peers have a much greater influence on teens' sexual behaviour, he said.

The findings were published recently in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.

But media may influence at-risk children who lack other sources of information about sexuality, according to Ferguson.

Encouraging message

"That is to say, when information from parents or schools are lacking, media may become the only source of information on sexuality," he said in a journal news release.

Read: Teenagers and sex - how to say no if you want to

Blaming the media might distract parents and policymakers from more significant issues related to teen sexuality, the researchers said. Parents should be encouraged to discuss sexuality with their teens; schools must offer appropriate sex education programmes; and the use of peer networks to promote safe sex must be explored, Ferguson said.

"The encouraging message from our results is that the media is unlikely to thwart parental efforts to socialise children should parents take the initiative to talk directly to their children about sex," he concluded.

Read more:

Teens are having sex from age 14 and it's downright dangerous

These troubled teens are having sex earlier

Talking sex with teens