American teenagers are exposed to substantial amounts of sexual content on television. Though it is widely believed that this exposure affects teens, there has been surprisingly little scientific investigation of this issue. To address this knowledge gap, RAND conducted a multi-year year study that broke new scientific ground as the first to examine whether adolescents’ viewing of sexual content on television predicts their subsequent behavior and health outcomes.
The study found that:
Teens who watch a lot of television with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual intercourse early year.
Frequent exposure to TV sexual content was associated with a significantly greater likelihood of teen pregnancy in the three years following exposure.
Portraying the risks of sex in television shows appears to help educate teens about the potential consequences of sexual behavior.
A related study of the effects of music found that heavy exposure to sexually degrading lyrics predicts accelerated initiation of sexual intercourse and other sexual activities.