How TV fuels teenage pregnancy

9 years ago by: Aliuniyi lawal
-- (m) at 10-02-2011 11:21AM

(1374 | Gistmaniac)

Adolescent girls who watch television programmes containing high sexual content are more likely to become pregnant than their peers who watch fewer such programmes, according to a study.

The longitudinal study which tracked children from age six to 18, concluded that the children who are exposed to content intended for adults in television and movies become sexually active at the onset of adolescence.

The study suggested that exposure to sex on television might influence teen pregnancy by creating the perception that there is little risk in engaging in sex without using contraceptives and accelerating the initiation of sexual intercourse.

“Adolescents receive a considerable amount of information about sex through TV programmes which, however, do not highlight the risks and responsibilities of sex,” said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author and a behavioural scientist at RAND Corporation, a United States non-profit research organisation which sponsored the study. “Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the US.”

The debate on whether exposure to the media affects behaviour has been raging for many years with researchers failing to reach an agreement. However, the study published in the journal, Paediatrics, is the first to establish a link between teenagers’ exposure to sexual content on TV and either pregnancies among girls or responsibility for pregnancies among boys.

“The amount of sexual content on television has doubled in recent years, and there is little representation of safer sex practices in those portrayals,” Chandra said. “While some progress has been made, teenagers who watch television are still going to find little information about the consequences of unprotected sexual practices among the many portrayals promoting sex.”

The rising rate of unintended teenage pregnancy has been a source of worry in many countries. However, authorities in these countries usually blame the rise on low use of contraceptives and never on the content of TV programmes.

For instance, a 2009 a report by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute found that unplanned pregnancies among Nigerian teenagers and young women have risen despite improvements in educational levels.

The study revealed that in 2003, 16 per cent of pregnancies among girls and women between 15 and 24 years had been unintended, compared with 10 per cent in 1990.

According to the study, nearly one-third of sexually active women aged 15-24 had had an unmet need for modern contraception in 2003. The institute blamed the rise partially on low use of contraceptives and lamented that Nigerian authorities had failed to promote sexual health information for young Nigerians.

“We are failing Nigerian adolescents when it comes to providing them with the information and services. They need to delay marriage and avoid unintended pregnancies,” said the report’s co-author, Prof. Friday Okonofua.

But the fact that it was during the period of the research that private TV stations opened for business in Nigeria (following the lifting of the ban on private broadcasting in 1992) and that it was also during the period that the home video industry blossomed makes the RAND study’s conclusion that there is a link between teenage pregnancy and exposure to high sexual content on TV seem plausible.

Indeed, many objects in the media that involve sex target teens. Reality TV shows and soap operas especially portray the fashionable people as the ones who are having sex.

For instance, a former member of cast of MTV’s Real World told the Washington Post, “I was upset about how they portrayed me. The only thing they went after was sex. When I complained, the producers told me, ‘Well, everything else was boring.” Again, there was much indignation in Nigeria in 2008 against the producers of Big Brother Africa reality TV for allowing lurid scenes to be broadcast in the show.

The RAND study was based on a national survey of about 2,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 who were recruited in 2001 and asked about their TV viewing habits and sexual behaviour. The participants were surveyed again in 2001 and in 2004. The analysis was based on results from about 700 participants who had engaged in sexual intercourse by the third survey and reported their pregnancy history.

The study found several other factors, in addition to TV viewing, that influenced whether adolescents were likely to experience a pregnancy. Adolescents living in a two-parent household had a lower probability of pregnancy, while girls, African-Americans and those with more problem behaviours such as discipline problems were more likely to experience a pregnancy. Youths who intended to have children early also were more likely to experience a pregnancy.

The researchers encourage parents to follow current American Academy of Paediatrics viewing guidelines such as no television in the bedroom, no more than one to two hours of screen time a day, and to co-view television programs and have an open dialogue about its content with your children. They also suggest that while the results demonstrate a longitudinal relationship, more research needs be done to understand how media influences children’s growing awareness of human relationships and sexual behaviour.

A Montessori education expert, Mrs. Ify Nwobosi-Anatune, also advises that TV programme producers should come up with more educative programmes that target children and adolescents, even as she advises parents to try and regulate how their children watch TV and what they watch.

-- abuqerau (m) at 10-02-2011 12:13PM
(10 | Newbie)

Pals shud take note