Parents are being warned, again, to beware of what their children see, because adolescent behavior follows what they view on the silver screen, i.e., the more sex they see the more they’ll act out.
The word comes in a report from the Association of Psychological Science, which cites a Dartmouth study on the behavior of children.
The study looked at behavior by adolescents and what the children viewed, and found that “adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners.”
That’s from Ross O’Hara, of the University of Missouri, who did the research with others while at Dartmouth.
“Much research has shown that adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behaviors are influenced by media,” O’Hara said in the Psychological Science report.
Ted Baehr, chief of MOVIEGUIDE®, which offers advisories, reviews and details about productions so that parents can learn what is in the movies their kids watch, said the latest research lines up with many studies that have come before, and reveals the same result.
“I’m very grateful that universities and schools keep coming up with study after study proving, in many different ways, that the media influences susceptible youth to engage in aberrant behavior. … The problem is that the message has not gotten to the parents even after all these years,” he said.
“Every study is an opportunity to reach families,” he said. “The good news is that we can show your kids how to be media- and culture-wise so they don’t get corrupted.”
The new research says scientists looked at whether seeing sex on the big screen translated into sexual activity in the real world.
The findings are being published in the Psychological Science journal of the Association of Psychological Science.
Involved was a survey of 684 of the top grossing movies from 1998 to 2004, which were ranked for the level of sexual activity.
“Researchers then recruited 1,228 participants who were from 12 to 14 years of age. Each participant reported which movies they had seen from a number of different collections of fifty that were randomly selected. Six years later the participants were surveyed to find out how old they were when they became sexually active and how risky their sexual behavior might have been,” according to the report.
It continued, “O’Hara and his colleagues found that greater exposure to sexual content in movies at a young age actually led to a higher peak in sensation seeking during adolescence. As a result, sensation seeking sexual behavior can last well into the late teens and even into the early twenties if young people are exposed to these kinds of movies. But researchers point out that sexual exposure in movies tends to activate sensation seeking both because of biology and the way that boys and girls are socialized.”
“These movies appear to fundamentally influence their personality through changes in sensation-seeking,” O’Hara said, “Which has far-reaching implications for all of their risk-taking behaviors.”
Researchers said there also was evidence that adolescents use movies for “sexual scripts,” or an understanding of how to behave in various situations.
“For 57 percent of American adolescents between the ages of 14 and 16, the media is their greatest source of sexual information. They often don’t differentiate between what they see on the screen and what they must confront in daily life,” the study warns.
Researchers noted that a direct link between films and behavior remains uncertain, but O’Hara said the results suggest “parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages.”
Officials with the Christian Institute in the United Kingdom noted the researchers cataloged each second of sexual content for popular films, and concluded that for every hour of exposure to sexual content on-screen, participants were more than five times more likely to lose their virginity within six years.
Teen Mania Ministries previously has cited the potential problems with the “trend of casual no-strings sex,” citing “Friends with Benefits,” the Institute reported.
“Teen Mania Ministries … said the the media do not care ‘about any morals or values that they are projecting and who is watching,'” the Institute said.
Now Hollywood may re-examine its own role in perpetuating real-life events
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– including violent incidents such as the recent Colorado mass slaying, which left 12 dead and 58 wounded.
Obama supporter and Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein blamed much of the violence on guns; however, he is also calling for a filmmaker summit on depictions of violence in film.