Study Proves Why You Should Have The Sex Talk With Your Tween Right Now

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sextalkYou may or may not censor the movies your children watch, especially as they approach their teenage years. I distinctly remember watching Grease and Saturday Night Fever at a very young age, but then explicitly being banned from seeing Epic Movie (which I immediately then saw, in theaters no less). But for the most part as a child, my media intake was left pretty uncensored. It’s always been my opinion that movies and other media have in fact shaped my way of thinking about sex to some extent, which is exactly what researchers at Dartmouth College are saying.

Researchers surveyed 1,228 children between the ages of 12 and 14 about their movie preferences. The young participants were presented with lists of 50 movies and told to select which ones they’d seen. Around six years later the children, now adults, were asked about their sex life within the prior years.  Dr. Ross O’Hara and his team concluded that greater exposure to sexual content in movies did lead to a more active sex life and more sexual partners in the children’s teenage years. More importantly, these kids were more inclined to engage in “risk-taking behaviors,” which included, among drinking and smoking, unprotected sex.

“These movies appear to fundamentally influence their personality through changes in sensation-seeking, “ O’Hara says, “Which has far-reaching implications for all of their risk-taking behaviors.”

Researchers did clarify, however, they they aren’t insinuating a direct cause and effect relationship between graphic films and sexual tendencies with their research alone. The results did have head researcher, Dr. Ross O’Hara, suggesting that “parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages,” but a healthy dose of parenting is also needed here in my estimation.

The study, published in Psychology Science, showed that in the top 648 highest grossing movies between 1998 and 2006 about 84% of them had some sexual content, meaning that the media’s distortion and hold on sex is inarguably immense. For 57% of teenagers ages 14 to 16,  the media is their “greatest source” of sexual guidance, previous research has claimed. Though censoring what your child is exposed to is one way to reduce “risky behavior” as O’Hara stated, it’s on parents to counteract the media’s consistent misinterpretation of sex by talking directly to their kids about safe sex and what having sex with someone even means. Needless to say, information about intercourse, STDs, and complicated emotional situations are better off coming from you rather than American Pie.

(Photo: iQoncept/