Doctors Advise No TV in Teenagers Bedrooms

Two questions that doctors are being encouraged to ask teenage patients:

1. How much time do you spend daily with entertainment media?

2. Is there a TV set or Internet access in your bedroom?

Hmmmm. Perhaps these are important influences to consider.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just released (August 30, 2010) their brand new study titled, “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media.” This report examines media messages teenagers are absorbing and how those influences affect their well being. In other words… when kids watch the music video for the #1 song Teenage Dream and watch Katy Perry getting her clothes torn off by a guy… does that really affect our kids? That’s what the AAP sought to discover.

The results of this study? Pretty scary. (I’ll definitely be including some of this in my upcoming parent workshops.)

Here are some of the elements that jumped out at me:

  • More than 75% of prime-time programs contain sexual content.
  • Only 14% of these incidents mention any risks or responsibilities of sexual activity.
  • Talk about sex on TV can occur as often as 8 to 10 times per hour.
  • Between 1997 and 2001 alone, the amount of sexual content on TV nearly doubled.
  • American media makes sex seem like a harmless sport in which everyone engages, and results of considerable research have indicated that the media can have a major effect on young people’s attitudes and behaviors.
  • The media may function as a “superpeer” in convincing adolescents that sexual activity is a normative behavior for young teenagers.
  • Listening to sexually degrading lyrics is associated with earlier sexual intercourse.
  • Out of nine longitudinal studies seeking to answer whether sexy media contributes to early sexual activity, seven of these studies have shown that exposure to sexual content in TV and other media in early adolescence can as much as double the risk of early sexual intercourse.
  • Early exposure to sexual content doubled the risk of teen pregnancy.
  • Bedroom TVs are associated with greater substance use and sexual activity by teenagers.

They summarized their findings well: “Clearly, the media play a major role in determining whether certain teenagers become sexually active earlier rather than later.”

The good news from the report:

  • Teenagers whose parents control their TV-viewing habits are less sexually experienced
  • Adolescents whose parents limit their TV-viewing are less likely to engage in early sex.

The messages from this report are loud and clear. Media affects our kids. So parents, help your kids make good media decisions. Pretty simple.

The report actually words it like this: Pediatricians should counsel parents to recognize the importance of the media, exert control over their children’s media choices, keep their children’s bedrooms free of TVs and Internet connections, and avoid letting their children see PG-13– and R-rated movies that are inappropriate for them.

Interesting that someone is finally chiming in about PG-13 movies. I’ve shared my two cents on that and provided a few examples here and here.

This isn’t the AAP’s first report on the subject. Last year the AAP released similar reports on the effects of sex and violence in the media. We wrote a Youth Culture Window article detailing the results of those reports, urging parents to monitor their kids’ media and help them make good media choices. This month’s AAP report conveys much of the same, but with even more current data revealing exactly how dire the situation is becoming.

Click here for the whole report. (Warning… some of you aren’t going to like the conclusions the report makes about abstinence only sex education. I encourage you to not throw out the baby with the bathwater.)

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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3 Responses to Doctors Advise No TV in Teenagers Bedrooms

  1. radu says:

    Wow that is crazy! This info is a great resource for a talk on media. Once in a while I talk to my teens about the influence of media on their/our lives. Walt Mueller has some great resources, as well.

  2. Pingback: Should Kids Have a TV in the Bedroom? |

  3. duncan faber says:

    We weened our kids off tv with audiobooks. They might not be as good as reading, but they’re way more engaging than TV. There’s lots of sites to download them, but we use one site in particular because the stories are all original and free. Here’s the link, if anyone is interested. http://www.twirlygirlshop.com/moral-stories-for-kids

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