Monday, November 10, 2008

Christian Families, Television, and Sex

Last Friday on The Albert Mohler Program, his topic was from a headline I'd read earlier in the week. Here's the headline:

Teen Pregnancy Linked to Watching Sexy TV Shows

The article leads off with this:

"CHICAGO — Groundbreaking research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes."

I thought it was interesting when I read the headline and thought "and they needed research for this?" since anyone with any amount of common sense already knows this to be true. Albert Mohler started his program off with "and they needed research for this?" Yes, apparently they did. As Mohler points out on his show, the evidence gathered from the study is very good because it disproves the claim made by some that the media doesn't actually influence the way people think, act, speak, etc.

I can't imagine anyone making such a claim would be taken seriously by anyone else, but apparently there are those among us that do make this claim (and expect us to believe it), and the research has now proven them to be wrong. Just about any parent could have told you this same information, but it doesn't quite carry the same weight as when it comes from a behavioral scientist who's work is featured in the November issue of Pediatrics. In the FOX news article, Bill Albert, chief program officer at the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was said to have praised the article because "catches up with common sense."

When I read the article I was just a little bothered to see what shows these teenagers are watching that has the most impact. Listed among the popular shows that teenagers are watching is "Sex and the City," "That '70s Show" and "Friends."

Now this is the part where I begin to sound like an old fashioned prude, a big meanie and someone stuck in the past. I just thought I'd mention that ahead of time.

I've never watched Sex and the City. I've seen the previews for it enough that I knew I had no desire whatsoever to watch such an overly-skankified hoochie-mama type show. I've also never watched That 70's Show. I've seen previews for that one too and found it rather stupid, actually. I have seen Friends, and while I confess that I actually did laugh a few times at the comedic quality of the show, the sexually immoral/liberal content bothered me enough that I can't watch it without that aspect bugging me. Keeping in mind, this is just one opinion of one mom in her early 40's, and it may not reflect anyone else's opinion at all - but, according to the study, these are some of the shows that have the most influence on teenagers and their attitudes towards sex.

I want to point out that the study referenced above suggests that as parents, we should LET our kids watch this stuff and then just talk to them about it. I have to say from experience, this can backfire in monumental ways and it doesn't always have the affect you hope it will. In other words, while the study may suggest this, know in advance that this is potentially playing with fire and your kids could be the ones that suffer the worst, from it. Of course every parent-child relationship is a little different and there are some teenagers out there who could potentially watch this stuff, discuss with the parents afterward, and be better for it. I have to honestly say that I think those teenagers are the exception however, and not the norm.

I know of a young lady who grew up in a Christian home, was by all accounts a good, well-mannered girl, a professing believer and was a joy to her family and everyone that knew her. As she grew into her teen years and began watching tv programming geared toward teens, she began to change. Only in slight ways at first but enough that folks around her noticed it. She began to dress the way the girls on tv dress, and to take on the same attitudes and worldviews the girls on tv expressed. By the time her parents realized that some of this was coming from the influence of the tv shows she was watching, it was too late. Her parents put their foot down and would not allow certain programs anymore, talked to her about it and expressed how everyone but her had noticed the change in her, but the more rebellious she became the more determined she became to disobey her parents and watch these kinds of shows and emulate the same behaviors as depicted on these tv shows. She is now a young woman living 100% in the world, in every way. There is nothing left (at least on the outside) of the nice, respectful, enjoyable girl she was before the teen years.

Certainly there were numerous factors at play, numerous influences aside from tv shows (music, movies, internet activity, worldly friends, etc.), but it's very clear that the messages on tv do in fact influence the minds of viewers. Most parents already knew this, but now there is solid, scientific research to back this up. I guess if there is one message I'd want to put out there above all others it would simply be to head this influence off at the pass. Don't let it be broadcast into your house in the first place. There are enough battles our teenage kids face today that we as parents didn't face at their age - there's no reason to make it even harder on them by letting these kinds of tv shows shape their thinking.

You might be considered the "mean" parent, but at least you didn't hand them the weapons they need to destroy themselves.

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