Background. Early sexual initiation is an important social and health issue. A recent survey suggested that most sexually experienced teens wish they had waited longer to have intercourse; other data indicate that unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are more common among those who begin sexual activity earlier. The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested that portrayals of sex on entertainment television (TV) may contribute to precocious adolescent sex. Approximately two-thirds of TV programs contain sexual content. However, empirical data examining the relationships between exposure to sex on TV and adolescent sexual behaviors are rare and inadequate for addressing the issue of causal effects.
Conclusions. Watching sex on TV predicts and may hasten adolescent sexual initiation. Reducing the amount of sexual content in entertainment programming, reducing adolescent exposure to this content, or increasing references to and depictions of possible negative consequences of sexual activity could appreciably delay the initiation of coital and noncoital activities. Alternatively, parents may be able to reduce the effects of sexual content by watching TV with their teenaged children and discussing their own beliefs about sex and the behaviors portrayed. Pediatricians should encourage these family discussions.
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