In a recent issue of Life Site News, Angela O'Brien reported on the results of a study conducted by Dr. Ross O'Hara at Darthmouth College in New Hampshire. Guess what? "Exposure to sexual content in popular movies predicts sexual behavior in adolescence." Really?
The study sounds interesting. O'Hara and his colleagues coded 684 top-grossing movies (1998-2004) for seconds of sexual content.
"The researchers then recruited 1,228 participants, from 12 to 14 years old. Each participant reported which movies they had seen, from collections of fifty randomly selected movies.
Six years later, the participants were surveyed to find out how old they were when they became sexually active, how many partners they had, and how risky their sexual behavior might have been. According to O’Hara, those who had been exposed to high levels of sexual content on film had more sexual partners, indulged in riskier sexual behaviour, and became sexually active earlier."
While the study did not prove causality, I'm convinced of the connection. The researchers mentioned that the movies appeared to change "sensation seeking" and "also speculate[d] that adolescents learn specific behaviors from the sexual messages in movies." Read the whole article here.
Regarding media content (especially movies and books), Len and I have always been among the strictest parents we know.* It hasn't always been easy.
Sometimes it's hard to decide how "bad" a film needs to be for us to say no to it, and sometimes it's hard to stick to our guns against a child's opposition. And when they say everyone else is allowed to read or watch [insert title here], I believe them. I know we're on the edge of the bell curve. Maybe my kids have had to miss some fun, and maybe we censored some media that didn't deserve it, but overall I'm glad we did.
As researcher Ross O'Hara stated, "This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages."
* It's been a blessing that Len and I are on pretty much the same page regarding appropriate media. Supporting each other and presenting a united front has been invaluable.