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Teens aren't as influenced by sex in the media as previously thought

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In order to curb sexually transmitted disease rates among young people and encourage them to use STD testing services, healthcare officials need to understand what influences sexual behavior in this population. As the Internet has grown in popularity during the past two decades, many parents, teachers and politicians alike have expressed concerns that viewing sexually explicit materials on the web and in magazines may be directly causing young individuals to engage in sexual behavior at an early age. However, recent research suggests that may not be true.

According to researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, this material may have some impact on youth sexual behavior, it is a very small one.

Not a major influence
Researchers conducted an online survey of 4,600 individuals between the ages of 15 and 25. They discovered that 88 percent of men and 45 percent of women had viewed sexual material either on the Internet, TV or in magazines and other media in the past year. While the researchers found that viewing this material was associated with young people engaging in a variety of sexual behaviors, the connection was small.

The scientists explained that these materials accounted for between 0.3 percent and 4 percent of differences in sexual behaviors. This means that sexually explicit material was a very small part of a number of factors that influence teen sexual behavior, which is not nearly as direct an association as previously thought.

"Our data suggest that other factors such as personal dispositions - specifically sexual sensation seeking - rather than consumption of sexually explicit material may play a more important role in a range of sexual behaviors of adolescents and young adults, and that the effects of sexually explicit media on sexual behaviors in reality need to be considered in conjunction with such factors," said researcher Gert Martin Hald, Ph.D.

What else influences teens?
According to the National Association of Social Workers, teenagers are most likely to look for sexual information from their friends. Furthermore, this this recent study suggests that sexually explicit media content doesn't have that much of an influence on teens, that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. The NASW added that for shows with sexual content, only 9 percent have any mention of the potential risks of sexual activity, or any mention of contraceptives of any form.

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