Is there a Link Between TV and Teen Pregnancy?

Posted November 17, 2008 by

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Is TV harmless, or does it encourage our kids to engage in risky behavior?

A new study out this month says that young people who frequently watch shows that depict sexual situations or conversations are twice as likely to get pregnant — or get someone else pregnant. (This is in comparison to¬† to kids who watch few or none of these types of programs.) In the study by the non-partisan Rand Corp., the pregnancy link was there even after accounting for factors such as delinquent behavior, those who wanted to get pregnant, and comparing kids who live in single-parent households to those with two parents present.

“Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy,” said lead researcher Anita Chandra. “We found a strong association.” The study was published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While TV itself doesn’t cause kids to get pregnant, I can see how it would make sex seem completely risk-free. (How many episodes of TV shows have you ever seen that deal with STDs, for example, or unwanted pregnancy?) While adults have the maturity to understand what happens next, most kids just don’t have that tool at their fingertips yet.

Where do you stand with TV in your household? Do you think it’s more about parenting and less about what your kids watch on television? Do you allow your kids unlimited access, or do you screen for violence and/or sexual content? And how do you talk about it with your teen if they do happen to see something sexual on TV?


Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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