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Sex on TV and its Impact on Kids: Well, “Duh”

October 13, 2009

Here’s one to file under “a big bag ‘o duh:”  Children Viewing Adult-targeted TV May Become Sexually Active Earlier In Life.  According to a recently released study by Children’s Hospital Boston, researchers found that “the younger children are exposed to content intended for adults in television and movies, the earlier they become sexually active during adolescence.”

Isn’t this what the entire television advertising business is built around?  Influencing viewers’ behavior based on what they see and hear in tv ads?  So why should we be surprised that the actual programming influences behavior too, especially that of kids who are still developing their view of the world around them, the ability to think critically, to differentiate between fantasy and reality, to weigh decisions carefully, and – oh yeah – to control their impulses.

I would have no problem if it was easy to avoid overtly sexual television programming, but it seems to be darn near impossible.  Even if you manage to keep your kids away from the actual programs you still have to worry about commercials promoting those programs.  And sometimes even watching “family friendly” tv isn’t safe. 

Last season our whole family was enjoying a Sunday afternoon NFL football game.  During a commercial break we were suddenly greeted by a woman seductively dropping her clothes to reveal a sexy bra and panties while being watched by a man laying on a bed, accompanied by the following voice-over: “Suburban housewives SELLING THEIR BODIES FOR SEX” (emphasis by the narrator, not me).  While I scrambled to grab the remote and change the channel the commercial went on to show shots of the now-murdered suburban housewife (clearly nude at this point despite a strategically draped sheet) accompanied by a breathless voice-over salaciously describing how the CSI detectives would be challenged by this week’s psychopathic criminal.  The next time they showed the commercial (it was repeated at least five times throughout the game) I was ready, and changed the channel as soon as I saw the opening shot.  But the damage was done.  “Why would a lady sell her body for sex?” asked my 11-year-old daughter.  “We already saw, mommy,” chimed in my nine-year-old son.

At that point I muted the game and we had a quick discussion about what they had seen.  I managed to answer their questions without delving into the topic of prostitution (still not sure how) and asked them what they thought.  It, unfortunately, was a great example of the inappropriate things I’d told them they might see online or on tv.

There must be a happy medium somewhere between Rob and Laura Petrie sleeping in separate twin beds (and keeping one foot on the floor in any bedroom scene in which they appeared actually sitting on the bed) and the soft-core bumping and grinding you find at any time of day on MTV, not to mention all of the sexual content (some of it surprisingly explicit) that appears on both prime-time network programs and basic cable channels (and, apparently, on Sunday afternoon football commercials).  

I’ll admit I’m not exactly sure what it is.  But I do know what’s too mature for my kids, and I’ll continue to do my best to shield them from it.   Because sexual activity is definitely one facet of life in which I don’t want them to grow up too quickly.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 13, 2009 6:43 pm

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

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