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Sexual content invades teen paradigms

Successful TV shows aimed at toddlers teach them numbers, colors and shapes. While this method of teaching may prepare kids for school, another type of televised education is more controversial. New studies suggest that sensual content in the media may affect teens’ sexual activity.

A new study released by the American Psychological Association stated the sexual content exposed to teens and children, including the Bratz doll line, may affect girls’ mindsets, causing them to consider themselves as physical objects of desire.

In addition to children’s merchandise, suggestive and completely explicit humor has become an expected part of any comedy regimen. A Google search for “sexual humor” returns pages advertising fresh material instead of criticizing the mass of online content.

“Sexual humor has increased, because it’s cheap humor, and they’ve casualized sex a lot,” senior Matt Andreatta said. “Back in the day, if your parents had talked about sex, they would have considered it to be a big deal ? they didn’t joke about it.”

While children’s merchandise and humor are rife with inappropriate material, perhaps the widest avenue of exposure is through television, movies and video games.

A new study reported by CBS News showed that teens exposed to a large amount of sexual content through music, magazines and video were 2.2 times more likely to have sex, when asked after two years, than those who avoided the content.

For this reason, many Christians feel media must be carefully evaluated.

“TV is getting harder and harder to watch for this very reason: too much sex and immodesty,” Matt Ford, North Fresno Church youth pastor, said. “In my short life, I have seen a drastic difference in the type of sexual content shown in TV and movies aimed at our youth.”

While discretion is advised by spiritual leaders, the universality of sexual material makes it hard to avoid, when simply turning on the TV or going to a highly reviewed movie is enough to make parents cover the eyes of young children.

“I do watch Gossip Girl, even though there are [implied] sex scenes … it’s my favorite show,” sophomore Rachel Wilhelm said. “I try to change the channel [during intimate scenes]. I don’t really think it’s okay to watch it, but I still do.”

Even during commercials, viewers are not spared from the onslaught of information and innuendo. According to the Media Awareness Center and Shari Graydon, former president of Canada’s MediaWatch, women are sexualized in ads in order catch a viewer’s focus.

Many believe the casual way sex is dealt with in the media has translated to the way it is viewed in practical applications.

“A long time ago, if somebody had sex [in high school] they were considered an outcast,” Andreatta said. “Nowadays if you go to public school it’s surprising if someone’s a virgin, and I think the media have had a part in that. If you casualize something, even like war, it becomes a joke.”

Another study, reported in The Washington Post, tracked a group of 12- through 17-year-olds, recording the sexual content they watched. The students who were exposed to a large quantity of the material were twice as likely to become sexually active.

“High school students are losing perspective on what a real, true and healthy sexuality is all about,” Ford said. “I think students are also becoming more and more confused about their identity as humans. The key word is desensitized. Our sexuality and our identity as humans are very intimately connected, yet we are being led to believe otherwise.”

While media reform is unlikely, campus pastor Robert Foshee says the responsibility falls on parents and students alike to defy the caricatured sexual stereotypes enforced by many members of the entertainment industry.

“They [Hollywood] want morals to be how they want them, not how the Bible says,” Foshee said. “You look at the lifestyles of the writers in Hollywood, who create the shows ? they’re not up to Biblical standards. As a parent, while my kids are young, I’ll train them [to avoid sexual content], but eventually they’ll have to choose.”

For more information, read the Connectwithkids.com report or e-mail Robert Foshee.

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