Sexy TV Linked to Teen Pregnancy

Last week I was watching a fairly clean prime time show with my entire family (not a lot of prime time that my 11, 13 and 15 year old can all watch anymore). The star of the show made a quick comment to his nerd friend that was spending time on the web on comic book sites. He said, “Why can’t you just watch porn like everyone else.” A subtle comment, but packed with meaning. Anyone normal looks at porn. It’s no big deal.

The week prior we were watching a show and one of the lead girls confessed, “I haven’t been laid in six months!” Everyone else gasped! The underlying message was clear. If you haven’t slept with someone in six months, something’s wrong!

The sad fact is… these were pretty clean shows. This wasn’t Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives, or the O.C.

T.V.’s effect on our youth is nothing new to this blog (just click on the “sexuality” category on the left hand side bar , or do a search for “TV” and see how many blogs are dedicated to the topic). It’s a fact that TV shows and movies are getting blatantly more raunchy. I just was chatting with my friend Todd, our THE SOURCE Movie Review guy, about this. He recently reviewed the popular Adam Sandler movie, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Todd described this PG-13 movie as a “raunch-fest.” He’s right. This movie was a PG-13 Borat. I thnk my biggest concern here is the PG-13 rating. Again… the subtle message that this content is okay for 13-year-olds. The entire film was not only loaded with over the top sexual humor… it presented abundant female roles who had no problem with these male “pigs” and their consistent crude sexual gestures. Our young girls are learning that sex is simply “no big deal.”

Yesterday I received numerous emails from people about the research just released by the Journal of Pediatrics. Numerous articles are reporting the “Teens who watch television shows that have a lot of sexual content are more likely to become pregnant- or to get someone pregnant- by the time they turn 20.”

This research is what I call “Duh.” Think about it. If our kids are coached by shows like Gossip Girl or Tila Tequila every week, they’re going to respond in the way they’ve been taught. it’s that simple.

Perhaps parents need to say, “You can’t watch this.”

Hmmmmmmm.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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6 Responses to Sexy TV Linked to Teen Pregnancy

  1. Adam says:

    A friend of mine made a great point the other day. Is this really linked in the sense that it causes higher sexual activity in teens, or is it the the kids already at risk are watching these shows? If parents are typically uninvolved and passively allowing their kids to watch these shows, they’re probably also unaware of the other things going on or encouraging them (sexual activity, drug use, etc.). Either way these shows are no good for kids, but what is the cause of what?

  2. Adam… it’s a good question to raise. The ol’ “chicken or the egg” question.

    My personal two cents is that they both catalyst each other. Kids who are sexually active probably are drawn to these shows that seem “real” to them. But at the same time, these shows are clearly enforcing these behaviors, and providing lousy “mentors” for many kids who are seeking direction and answers to life’s problems.

    Take Tila Tequila for example (click on the link in my blog above to learn more about her). When her MTV show grew in popularity, her MySpace page literally exploded to become one of the most popular pages viewed by teenage girls. Teenage girls actually began seeking advice from Tila.

    Is TV alone in the blame? No. Most the blame probably rests with parents. But let’s be honest- kids are definately “absorbing” attitudes and behaviors from these celebrities and shows.

  3. Sarah Sutphin says:

    Teens are definitely absorbing attitudes from TV and celebrities. At the beginning of the school year at our first group meeting I gave each kid a brief questionnaire (i had them distributed in both the high school and middle school groups). On the questionnaire was a question about what shows they liked to watch. My middle school kids were pretty tame, the high school kids wrote all kinds of shows. Thank the Lord for DVR, I recorded one episode of every show they listed. Some of what I saw amazed me.

    I have been out of high school for about 13 years, when I was a teen my mom did her best to monitor what I watched. Granted, I watched some of the shows I wasn’t allowed to watch a my friends homes. But my mom tried her best to protect me from the stuff on back then which is nothing compared to what is on TV now. While we as youth workers have a responsibility to our youth, we are only with them a few hours a week. We can only teach them about what they should be watching so much. It makes me sad that more parents aren’t involved in this area. Parents have to step up.

    When I do meet with my parents, I try to equip them and make them aware of what is out there. I don’t tell them what they should let their kids watch, I do tell them about things I have watched as a result of recommendations from youth. While it is not our job to be parents to the youth in our ministries, I do believe it is our job to partner with parents and help make them aware of what is happening in their kid’s life. The follow up is up to them.

    The unfortunate part is that these youth in churches who are watching whatever they want are forming opinions of what is acceptable and what is not and they are based on the fantasy of these TV shows. These shows never show the downside of pre0marital sex, teen pregnancy, excessive drinking, lying, gossiping, etc. The real world isn’t that glamorous.

    Ultimately I guess the fall of creation would be to blame for the state of things, it’s not just one factor…it’s sin as a whole. Sin breeds sin. Our fight against that will continue. In the meantime I guess we must continue to be aware of the things youth are involved in and be open in our dialogue with them.

  4. jon says:

    we had a lesson on purity last week. some the reasons we came up with for not maintaining purity were: “my body is begging me to do it,” “let’s solidify our love” “it’s fun” and the biggie that goes with your blog, “you’re a loser if you don’t.” i guess the 40 yr. old virgin was funny but not cool. the good news is the conscious decision to be pure on purpose can be respected and cool. THAT’S the atmosphere i want to establish among my youth.

  5. Dawn Gibbs says:

    I have a 17 year old son and have always made it a point to watch tv with him. This allows for a lot less tv watching. This time is special and it is our time together. When situations come up that are not moral, it gives us the chance to talk about it openly and explain God’s way.
    He has grown into a responsible young man despite the culture that surrounds him today and despite what is allowed in on our screen. Also I love Tivo and being able to fast forward through things that shouldn’t be watched.

  6. justme says:

    Hey Jonathon,

    FYI, your comment on Tila Tequila. Did you ever see the book that she wrote giving teens and pre teens advice on dating, etc. Its astounding.

    MTV Canada has a show called the Aftershow in which one host interviewed Tila and almost made her cry with the questions she was asking such as ‘So you really think this book is a good idea for parents to put under the Christmas tree?’

    Then the host went on to read excerpts from the book. One of the suggestions taht Tila gave to her younger readers was to call eachother ‘slut’ as a term of endearment.

    Crazy!

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