A new policy statement, published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), warns that, "There is a major disconnect between what mainstream media portray - casual sex and sexuality with no consequences - and what children and teenagers need - straightforward information about human sexuality and the need for contraception when having sex."
In fact, according to the AAP, new evidence suggests that the media serves as an important factor in the initiation of sexual intercourse, and that adolescents turn to the media as a source of sexual information. This begins to become even more problematic when these teens have not had comprehensive sexual education because the media sends the wrong sexual messages. When was the last time you watched a TV show where a couple stopped their lovemaking to explain the importance of using contraception or how to properly put on a condom?
It backs up the point (that we have known for a long time) that the message, "just don't do it," is not effective in stopping sex or its potential negative outcomes. The AAP further urges that, "It is unwise to promote 'abstinence-only' education when it has been shown to be ineffective, and [especially now] when the media have become such an important source of information about 'nonabstinence'."
The AAP statement also makes the alarming point, that, "The United States is the only Western nation that still subscribes to the dangerous myth that giving teenagers access to birth control ...will make them sexually active at a younger age. Other countries advertise birth control products widely and have a much lower rate of teen pregnancy." The AAP cites research showing that 86% of progress made in reducing teen pregnancy is attributed to increased contraceptive use whereas only 14% is attributable to increased abstinence.
In addition to recommendations that the media should include more responsible sexual content, healthy messages about sex and broadcast more birth control advertisements, the AAP also recommends that parents exert control over their children's media choices. Finally, the AAP advises that, "Pediatricians should urge schools to insist on comprehensive sex education programs (to counter the influence of sexually suggestive and explicit media)... Federal money should be spent on comprehensive sex education programs but not on abstinence-only programs, which have been found to be ineffective."
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics. "Policy Statement -- Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media." Pediatrics 14 Sept 2010 126(3): 576-583.
Sex Education Photo Courtesy of Microsoft Online