September 10, 2004
It’s big news on NBC’s TODAY Show. Matt is worried. He is worried about Katie and her two daughters. Are they watching television? And how much?
Matt wants Katie to know. A research study has just proven that the more kids watch “it,” the more likely kids are to “do it.” Sex, that is. “Katie,” Matt insists, “this study proves that television can influence teens to have sex.” Katie barely lets him finish before responding.
“Duh!” she chides.
Matt tries again. Does she know watching sex can be a negative influence on her two girls? Katie interrupts him.
“Duh! Like I didn’t know that?”
It’s a lead story for NBC’s TODAY Show. A very expensive year-long research study by the Rand Corp. has come to the following conclusion. “(A)dolescents who watched the most television with sexual content were twice as likely to initiate sexual intercourse over the next year as adolescents who watched the least amount of TV with sexual content.”
Isn’t this what right-wing, idiotic, moralistic, radical, in-your-face, Bible-thumping, puritanical, fundamentalists have been saying for years? If we could wrangle a fundamentalist to the ground and force him to quote scripture, he might moralize with a Proverb. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. (Prov 4:23-25 NIV)
Oh, that we had heeded their pious, mean-spirited, fear-inducing, prurient advice in the 1970s and taken steps to control the sexual content of our culture. Oh, that we would refuse to let shows like Friends and Sex in the City pander to our children in prime time. Oh, that we would force MTV to become a pay-for-view station just like Playboy.
Instead, we wait thirty years for promiscuous sex to capture the hearts of a generation of teens, for the number of unwed teen pregnancies to skyrocket, and for an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases to plague us. Then we hire a research firm to tell us what got us to this point.
Rebecca Collins is the lead RAND psychologist who directed the study of nearly 1800 adolescents aged 12 to 17. They were asked about their television viewing habits and their sexual behavior. One year later they were surveyed again.
The RAND study results were published in the September issue of “Pediatrics.” Not only does watching television impact our teens, but according to Collins, “The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior.”
In fact the impact of television is even greater than the average person might suspect. It makes little difference whether the TV show presents people talking about sex or engaging in sex. Explaining this, Collins says, “Both affect adolescents’ perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior.”
Methinks I hear another fundamentalist whispering in my ear. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Phil 4:8 NIV)
“We found that we could predict whether the kids went from being virgins to having had sex over the course of that year using the information about which shows that they watched,” Collins told NBC’s Stephanie Stanton.
Collins continues, “It’s not just visuals…it’s the talk about sex, it’s the idea that TV shows are always talking, and thinking, and acting sexually, and that that’s what works its way into kids’ consciousness.”
To be fair, we owe Collins a debt of gratitude for putting common sense on the radar screen for academicians and politicians who run from any hint of fundamentalist morality, no matter how many centuries those morals have served mankind. Collins and her colleagues have given parents a reason to trust their own good judgment and take a stand for the noble things of life…good clean television, where whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable…those are the things…
we must talk about…
FOR MORE ON AMERICAN ENTERTAINMENT
April 9, 2004: Dear Paul
May 7, 2004: Thank You, Janet
July 9, 2004: Why Johnny Can’t Read…or Write…or Count