TV intensifies teen's sex drive: US study

MUMBAI: A study conducted in the US by research organisation RAND Corporation has revealed that teens who watch sex on TV are likely to become sexually active sooner.

According to the study, watching TV shows with sexual content apparently hastens the initiation of teen sexual activity. The study has also revealed that sexual talk on TV has the same effect on teens as depictions of sex.

Two recent studies conducted by RAND Health behavioral scientist Rebecca Collins examined the impact of TV sex on teenagers' sexual beliefs and activities. The results also revealed that some viewing effects could be positive. It says shows with content about contraception and pregnancy can help to educate teens about the risks and consequences of sex-and can also foster beneficial dialogue between teens and parents.

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The first RAND study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, examined TV's role in the early initiation of intercourse is an important public health issue. Analysts surveyed a national sample of households containing an adolescent from 12 to 17 years old. A total of 1,762 adolescents were asked about their sexual experiences and also their television viewing habits and, one year later, were surveyed again.

The results showed that heavy exposure to sexual content on television related strongly to teens' initiation of intercourse or their progression to more advanced sexual activities apart from intercourse in the following year. According to the study, youths who watched the most sexual content "acted older": a 12-year-old at the highest levels of exposure behaved like a 14- or 15-year-old at the lowest levels. The study also identified other factors that increased the likelihood that teens would initiate intercourse, including being older, having older friends, getting lower grades, engaging in rule-breaking.

The other study which examined television's potential as a tool for educating teens about sexual risks and safe behavior found that TV can also sex educator for teens can foster communication with parents on the topic.

The study report concludes with the suggestion that teens' exposure to sexual content on television should be utilised by increasing the percentage of portrayals of sexual risk and safety in the shows. The researchers feel that this will inhibit early sexual activity, increase knowledge of sexual risks and stimulate dialogue with parents.

And there are those who would want to take the findings only with a pinch of salt. Critics who believe the study is an exaggerated one argue that the study hasn't taken into account kids' physical maturity and the kind of shows they are watching.

It is high time someone did a similar study in India. Especially in the light of the recent Bombay High Court order which restrained Indian channels from telecasting adult shows and also following reports about two teenagers allegedly raping a nine-year old girl in suburban Mumbai.

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