April 3, 2006

Heavier TV watching may mean earlier sex for teens

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Certain teenagers who watch
more television are more likely to become sexually active than
those who spend less time in front of the tube, a new study

Dr. Sarah Ashby of the University of Wisconsin School of
Public Health in Madison and her colleagues found that, among a
group of 4,808 boys and girls younger than 16, those who said
their parents strongly disapproved of sex -- nearly three
quarters of the group -- were more likely to start having sex
in the following year if they watched two hours or more of TV

The findings, appearing in the Archives of Pediatrics and
Adolescent Medicine, support the hypothesis that "kids who are
at overall lower risk of initiating sex may be more influenced
by things that they see," Ashby told Reuters Health. For teens
who don't sense parental disapproval, she added, "the cat is
already out of the bag."

Parental disapproval in itself did indeed cut the risk of
kids becoming sexually active -- 12.5 percent of these teens
started having sex, compared to 24.1 percent of those who
didn't feel their parents disapproved of sex.

Among kids who sensed parental disapproval, the more TV
they watched, the greater their likelihood of becoming sexually
active -- up to a point.

Those who watched two to five hours were more than twice as
likely as those who watched less than an hour daily to start
having sex. But teens logging five hours of daily TV or more
were at no greater risk of starting to have sex than those who
watched less than two hours.

It's possible that these children were watching so much
television that they had no time for other activities,
including sex, the researchers note.

The researchers also found that sexual initiation was more
likely among teens who sensed parental disapproval of sex if
their parents made no effort to regulate their TV watching.

The findings show, Ashby told Reuters Health, that "it's
important that parents convey very clearly their values about
sexual behavior to their children." What's more, she added,
they should take other steps to reduce their children's risk of
having sex, including keeping an eye on their TV viewing

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,
April 2006.