Two news headlines jumped out at me last week. The first read, “Study Links Sexual Content on TV to Teen Pregnancy.” The second was more tragic. It said, “Ontario Town in Mourning After Body Found.” Both stories highlighted a link between media choices and actions.
A CNN.com story posted last Monday, focused on a recent study that pointed to a measurable connection between watching sexual content on television and teenage pregnancy. The lead read, “Sexual content on television is strongly associated with teen pregnancy, a new study from the RAND Corporation shows.”
In fact, according to this article, researchers found that adolescents with high levels of exposure to TV shows with sexual content were twice as likely to become teen parents than those who saw fewer programs of this kind. Did you catch that statistic? Twice as likely! That number is difficult to ignore.
The study also indicated that avoiding such sexual content is tough. In fact, the shows they tracked for the study weren’t unusually steamy. They included several common favorites like That 70s Show and Friends. The study’s lead author, Anita Chandra said, “We know that if a child is watching more than an hour of TV a day, we know there’s a sexual scene in [the] content every 10 minutes, then they’re getting a fair amount of sexual content.”
I usually watch at least an hour of television a day. Do you? That means that we are being exposed to a minimum of six sexual scenes, conversations, or innuendoes daily. It doesn’t seem likely that we can avoid being impacted by such a steady stream of questionable content.
The second story was far more tragic. According to the article found on abcnews.com, 15-year-old Brandon Crisp’s parents were concerned that their son had become obsessed with playing Xbox. In response, they took the game system away from him. He was so distraught that he ran away. He was found dead three weeks later. What most people would tout as “just a game” became so important to Brandon, that he would rather run away from home than be without it.
I’ll admit that both of these stories illustrate extreme consequences for poor media choices. But, they also make it harder to ignore the fact that the media choices we make matter.
It seems that for many young women, the impact of media choices is an area of deception. In Lies Young Women Believe, Nancy and Dannah worded the lie this way “The benefits of constant media use outweigh the harm.” This was one of our whopper lies that we uncovered in our focus groups. Almost every young woman we interviewed (98%!) agreed that their media habits negatively affect their relationships with God and others. But they believed that the benefits were worth it.
Those numbers are the end result of a lot of pushing on our part. At first, no one wanted to admit that the media had negatively impacted them at all. We heard a lot of justifications for poor media habits that were just plain silly! We also heard a lot of “I know that the music I listen to has bad lyrics, but I don’t even pay attention to the words. I just like the beat,” and “I know that Gossip Girl has a lot of sex scenes, but I know it isn’t real. My friends and I would never act like that,” or “I just don’t let it get to me, I have control over whether or not my media choices impact me.”
These two news stories are a strong reminder that these arguments don’t hold water. It’s true that my media choices have never led me to become a teen mother. Nor did they ever cause me to run away from home. But, my media choices (and yours) have always had an impact.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the specific ways that poor media choices affect me since reading these articles. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- An increased fantasy life. Watching overly sexual or romantic television and movies doesn’t always change my behavior, but boy does it create a battlefield in my mind. I often find myself wrestling with lustful or unrealistic thoughts as a result of my media choices.
- Distraction! I am so easily distracted by what is on television and online. I often choose to watch TV or surf Facebook instead of doing more important things (I literally stopped in the middle of this sentence to check my Facebook…argh!)
- Increased appetite for stuff. I’ve noticed that watching too much TV gives me the urge to shop.
I would love to know how your media choices are affecting you. Let’s take this opportunity to get real about the Truth that what we watch, read, and listen to matters! Maybe I will even come across this headline soon, “Young Women Take a Bold Stand Against Poor Media Choices.” Now, that’s a news story I can’t wait to read.