Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

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Sexualized media & sex education

February 8, 2011

Christians have objected for decades to the sexualized imagery of secular media, [1] [2] [3] [4] citing Biblical principles [5] [6] and arguing that such content is damaging, [7] especially to young people. [8] Though such objections are derided by popular opinion as ‘old fashioned’, numerous professional studies confirm they are factually based. [9] [10]

Children are highly affected by sexual content on TV,[11] resulting in a range of negative outcomes.[12] [13] [14] [15] Girls are highly vulnerable;[16] [17] [18] [19] [20] objectification of girls is related to many destructive behaviours.[21]

Reliance on abstinence advice alone is unrealistic, as this can be, and often is, displaced by over sexualised media content. Comprehensive sex education in which the benefits of abstinence are emphasized[22] [23] and appropriate information on contraception is provided, reduces both the age of sexual initiation, and teen pregnancy rates.[24] [25]


[1] ‘Papers that cater for the evil in men and women should be shunned by all who are concerned for clean and healthy thinking and living.’, Carter, ‘Sunday Reading’, The Christadelphian (90.1072.309), 1953.

[2] ‘Worse even than the violence and the ridicule of all the kindly virtues is the preoccupation with sex. The reviewer says it is enough to glance through half a dozen “comics” to see that they are “thinly disguised pornography”.’, Sargent, ‘The Social Sign: “Horror Comics”’, The Christadelphian (92.1090.144), 1955.

[3] ‘Our eyes, ears, and minds are assaulted by magazine, poster, radio and television advertisements which set out to stimulate the wrong kind of emotions by making sex, drink and the different ways of having “a good time” seem attractive and proper.’, Marshall, ‘The New Life 6: A Dangerous World’, The Christadelphian (105.1250.350), 1968.

[4] ‘—the increased problem of drugs taken by the young, the addiction of both young and old alike to the T.V. set, and the new morality—which I am sure should be called the “old immorality”—where sex is pushed at every opportunity by every conceivable method’, Billington, ‘Life in the Arctic’, The Christadelphian (108.1284.249), 1971.

[5] ‘Or is there an altogether too easy tendency to lustful thoughts? Then let the conning of certain modern magazines be utterly banned, and let the modern sex-ridden novel—one of the curses of this generation—be wisely consigned to the dustbin. “If thine eye cause thee to stumble, pluck it out.”’, Whittaker, ‘Sunday Morning: No. 924 Temptation’, The Christadelphian (93.1109.402), 1956.

[6]The way of Cain is still very much with us. It glorifies man, it boastfully glorifies debased sex, brutality and violence in print, on screen and in reality.’, Eyre, ‘The Way of Cain’, The Christadelphian (103.1221.101), 1966.

[7] ‘In attempting a definition, the committee says that “pornography tends to see sexual practices as divorced from any tender considerations for one’s partner . . . (It) exploits and dehumanises sex so that human beings are treated as things and women in particular as sex objects”. There is plenty of evidence that it sometimes does harm.’, Nichols, ‘Signs of the Times: The Longford Report’, The Christadelphian (109.1301.512), 1972.

[8] ‘He continued: “What is true is that from this age onwards the adolescent is subjected to a barrage from every medium of communication and entertainment of stimuli which leads to a premature and excessive awareness and preoccupation with sex.”’, Sargent, ‘A Wholesome Voice’, The Christadelphian (100.1193.512), 1963.

[9] ‘There is increasing evidence that youth exposure to sexual content on television shapes sexual attitudes and behavior in a manner that may influence reproductive health outcomes.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008.

[10]‘Several studies 16,111,112,114,121,134 have demonstrated clearly that sexual content is pervasive in TV programming, movies, music videos, and magazines; however, much less is known about sexual content on the radio (including remarks by disc jockeys) and the sexual content of video and computer games.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.320), 2005.

[11] ‘”I was surprised at how much 18- to 20-year-olds are still affected by media’s messages about sex” Ward says. “When we first started our research, we assumed that 15-year-olds who largely hadn’t started dating yet would have much of their reality shaped by the media. They don’t know the difference sometimes [between media reality and real life] and don’t have the maturity to make informed choices about sex. But 18- to 20-year-olds are at the pinnacle, so to speak, when it comes to dating and relationships. They’re older, more mature, less naive. And they’re still affected.”’, Stewart, ‘Sex-Saturated Culture Sends Message to Kids’, Insight on the News (May 22, 2000).

[12]This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008..

[13] ‘Adolescents in the United States are engaging in sexual activity at early ages and with multiple partners. The mass media have been shown to affect a broad range of adolescent health-related attitudes and behaviors including violence, eating disorders, and tobacco and alcohol use. One largely unexplored factor that may contribute to adolescents’ sexual activity is their exposure to mass media.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.303), 2005.

[14] ‘Using the sexual-media–diet measure, these researchers report that among adolescents, heavier exposure to sexual content is associated with increased sexual activity and intentions to become sexually active’, ibid., p. 320.

[15]Our results indicate that frequent exposure to sexual content on television predicts early pregnancy, even after accounting for the influence of a variety of other known correlates of each.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1052), 2008.

[16] ‘Narrative accounts of court-involved girls lives uncovered three social forces that combined to contribute to high rates of system involvement. I have discussed two: the emotional factor of familes’ not protecting their girl children or meeting young women’s needs and the economic factor of material need. In this section I dissect the cultural factor of an increased sexualization of young women caused by the global, burgeoning, multi-billion-dollar youth-sex-beauty industrial complex.’, Schaffner, ‘Girls in Trouble with the Law’, p. 98 (2006).

[17] ‘I mean oversexualized in the sense that young women are viewed primarily as sex objects by many male adults in their worlds, view their own place in the world as mostly providing sexual titillation for males, and see sex as their best – or only – resource for problem solving.’, ibid., p. 99.

[18] ‘Young women, bombarded with the cultural imperative to be sexy, reproduce the message as if they had thought of it themselves, thus falling into a dialectical, reflexive loop.’, ibid., p. 102

[19] ‘Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have become alarmed, arguing that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls (Bloom, 2004;“Buying Into Sexy,” 2005; Dalton, 2005; Lamb & Brown, 2006; Levin, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Linn, 2004; Pollet & Hurwitz, 2004; Schor, 2004).’, American Psychological Association,Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, ‘Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.Washington’, (2007).

[20] ‘This includes both short- and long-term effects of viewing or buying into a sexualizing objectifying image, how these effects influence girls’ development, self-esteem, friendships, and intimate relationships, ideas about femininity, body image, physical, mental, and sexual health, sexual satisfaction, desire for plastic surgery, risk factors for early pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections, attitudes toward women, other girls, boys, and men, as well as educational aspirations and future career success.’, ibid., p. 43.

[21]Numerous studies have shown a connection between stereotypical attitudes about women’s sexuality and aggressive sexual behavior. Several have shown that women and men exposed to sexually objectifying images from mainstream media were significantly more accepting of rape myths, sexual harassment, sex role stereotypes, interpersonal violence, and adversarial sexual beliefs about relationships.’, Bailey, ‘Consequences Of the Sexualization of Girls: American Psychological Association Report Part IV’, From Now On: The Newsletter of the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (2007).

[22] ‘APHA further recognizes that abstinence from sexual intercourse is an important behavioral strategy for preventing HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy.’, American Public Health Association, ‘Testimony of the American Public Health Association “Domestic Abstinence-Only Programs: Assessing the Evidence” House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, (April 23, 2008).

[23] ‘The Society of Adolescent Medicine summarized its expert review of sexuality education with the following: Abstinence from sexual intercourse represents a healthy choice for teenagers, as teenagers face considerable risk to their reproductive health from unintended pregnancies and STIs including infection with HIV. Remaining abstinent, at least through high school, is strongly supported by parents and even by adolescents themselves. However, few Americans remain abstinent until marriage, many do not or cannot marry, and most initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual behaviors as adolescents. Abstinence as a behavioral goal is not the same as abstinence-only education programs.’, Blythe, ‘Testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, p. 7 (April 23, 2008).

[24] ‘By contrast, credible research clearly demonstrates that some comprehensive sex education, or “abstinence-plus,” programs can achieve positive behavioral changes among young people and reduce STIs, and that these programs do not encourage young people to initiate sexual activity earlier or have more sexual partners.’, Collins, et al., ‘Abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education: What are the arguments? What is the evidence?’, p. 2 (March 2002).

[25] ‘Comprehensive sex education, which emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods, has been proven to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and STD infection.’, Starkman & Rajani, ‘The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education’, AIDS Patient Care and STDs (16.7.313),  July 1, 2002.

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Social effects of media

February 6, 2011

Conservative Christians have been known for their historic opposition to TV in general, and to violent media in particular, on the basis of Biblical statements identified as relevant to the subject.[1] [2] [3] Numerous studies confirm that such opposition is well founded.

Typical media content has been identified as having a negative impact on the behavior of impressionable minors,[4] [5] with a particularly strong correlation between violent media and violent behavior.[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Studies indicate evidence for TV’s negative influence, even unrelated to actual content.[11] [12]

Numerous studies demonstrate that the actual medium of TV itself has a negative impact, regardless of the content being viewed,[13] vindicating cautions about the negative impact of TV viewing on children’s physical development which are over 40 years old.[14] [15]

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to limit their children’s exposure to TV significantly, and to encourage traditional forms of play,[16] strikingly similar to what conservative Christian parents have recommended for literally decades.

Studies have indicated the same dangers for computer use. [17] Violent content has been identified as a specific concern,[18] [19] [20] while there is little to demonstrate that home computer use contributes significantly to positive academic performance.[21]


[1] Psalm 119: 37 Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!

[2] Proverbs 4: 23 Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life. 24 Remove perverse speech from your mouth; keep devious talk far from your lips.

[3] Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

[4] ‘During this period of heightened concerns about attractiveness and sensitivity to cultural norms, children are bombarded with media messages that often promote, although usually indirectly, high-risk behavior. Studies of smoking and alcohol use in youth suggest that media do affect behavior (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992; Oei & Baldwin, 1992). Smoking, alcohol consumption, sex, and violence are prominent in television and even in computer games and comic books. Media messages related to children’s developing sexuality usually promote rather than discourage sexual activity.’, Stipek, de la Sota, & Weishaupt, ‘Life Lessons: An Embedded Classroom Approach to Preventing High-Risk Behaviours among Preadolescents’, The Elementary School Journal (99.5.435), 1999.

[5] ‘The importance of media is evident in findings that young adolescents who develop eating disorders are relatively more exposed to media (especially reading magazines and watching television soap operas; Harrison, 1997; Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996).’, ibid., p. 435.

[6] ‘Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center’s Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Research Center have shown that watching violent programs can cause parts of your brain that suppress aggressive behaviors to become less active.’, Craig, ‘This is your brain on violent media’, Columbia University Medical Center, December 2007.

[7] ‘A secondary finding was that after repeated viewings of violence, an area of the brain associated with planning behaviors became more active. This lends further support to the idea that exposure to violence diminishes the brain’s ability to inhibit behavior-related processing.’, ibid.

[8] ‘Considering our regression analyses (i.e., step 2a in Table 2), it can be seen that violent media exposure does relate meaningfully and significantly to engagement in violence and aggression even after controlling the substantial effects of sex and age.’, Boxer et al., ‘The Role of Violent Media Preference in Cumulative Developmental Risk for Violence and General Aggression’, J Youth Adolescence (38.425), 2009.

[9] ‘Furthermore, even for those lowest in other risk factors, a preference for violent media was predictive of violent behavior and general aggression. This finding is consistent with earlier research showing that even low-aggressive individuals are affected by media violence (Eron et al. 1972).’, ibid., p. 425.

[10] ‘Even if we consider only those studies that have most thoroughly met the standards of critics, (3) the pattern of results still supports the conclusion that television violence leads to increased aggression. As a result, there is widespread agreement among credible authorities that television violence does increase children’s aggression and fears. Reports supporting the conclusion have been circulated by the United States Surgeon General, (4) the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry, (5) the American National Institute of Mental Health, (6) UNESCO, (7) the American Psychological Association, (8) the CRTC, (9) and the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Communications and Culture. (10)’, Josephson, ‘Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages’, report for the Department of Canadian Heritage, February 1995.

[11] ‘Early television exposure is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Efforts to limit television viewing in early childhood may be warranted, and additional research is needed.’, Christakis et al., ‘A. Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children’, Pediatrics (113.4.708), 2004.

[12]‘We found that early exposure to television was associated with subsequent attentional problems. This finding was present even while controlling for a number of potential confounding factors, including prenatal substance use and gestational age, measures of maternal psychopathology, and socioeconomic status. The magnitude of the risk associated with television viewing, expressed in our analysis in terms of hours per day of television viewed, is clinically significant when one considers the full range of hours of television viewed in our sample (0–16). A 1-SD increase in the number of hours of television watched at age 1 is associated with a 28% increase in the probability of having attentional problems at age 7. This result is robust and stable over time—a similar effect size is obtained for the number of hours of television watched at age 3. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to test the hypothesis of very early television viewing on subsequent inattention using a nationally representative longitudinal sample.’, ibid., p. 710; the study noted a number of caveats, such as the need for further study and the fact that a direct causal link was not established, though the correlation is clinically significant.

[13]‘In 1980, Boys Town published an exhaustive review of nearly 3,000 studies of television’s impact on children conducted over the previous 25 years, concluding that television can exert a powerful influence independent of the particular content portrayed on the screen. The simple availability of television was associated with delayed development in a child’s verbal skills and in the amount of effort applied to academic tasks.’, Wartella & Jennings, ‘Children and Computers: New Technology. Old Concerns’, The Future of Children (10.2.34), 2000.

[14] ‘Excessive viewing may encourage passivity and may limit play experiences with other children or alone.’, Appell, ‘Television Viewing and the Preschool Child’,  Marriage And Family Living, (25.3.315), 1963.

[15]These are principally unintended, noncontent, or unnoticed effects of television. For example, the child who spends four hours a day between the ages of three and eighteen watching television, as millions do, has spent some 22,000 hours in passive inactivity as opposed to exercising (to develop his physical fitness), or relating to his parents (to prevent a “generation gap”) and so on. What he watches doesn’t alter these effects materially.’, Skornia, ‘What TV Is Doing to America: Some Unexpected Consequences’, Journal of Aesthetic Education (3.3.29-30), 1969.

[16] ‘To minimize the increased risk of obesity, as well as several other harmful effects of extensive media exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to limit children’s time spent with computers, video games, and other media to perhaps no more than one to two hours a day, and to emphasize alternative activities such as imaginative play and sports.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.6), 2000.

[17] ‘Excessive, unmonitored use of computers, especially when combined with use of other screen technologies, such as television, can place children at risk for harmful effects on their physical, social, and psychological development. Children need physical activity, social interaction, and the love and guidance of caring adults to be healthy, happy, and productive.14 Too much time in front of a screen can deprive children of time for organized sports and other social activities that are beneficial to child development.15 In addition, children may be exposed to violent, sexual, or commercial content beyond their years, with long-term negative effects.16 To ensure healthy and appropriate use of computers both at school and at home, children’s computer time must be limited and their exposure to different types of content must be supervised.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.6), 2000.

[18] ‘In addition, however, just as research has documented that watching violent films and television programming can lead to increased hostility and aggression in children,36 some research also suggests an association between playing violent computer games and increased aggression. 37 Although the causal direction of the association is unclear, the critical variable linked to subsequent aggressive behavior appears to be the child’s preference for playing such games.’, ibid., p. 8.

[19] ‘Of most concern are the findings that playing violent computer games may increase aggressiveness and desensitize a child to suffering, and that the use of computers may blur a child’s ability to distinguish real life from simulation.’, Subrahmanyam et al., ‘The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development’, The Future of Children (10.2.123), 2000.

[20]The strongest evidence examining how home computer use affects children builds on the studies of television concerning physical effects and violent content. The evidence on physical effects links the sedentary nature of computer use to an increased risk of obesity. Children should limit their time with media and should be taught to use computers safely to avoid the types of eye, back, and wrist injuries that have plagued adult computer users. In addition, the evidence on violent content links exposure to violent computer games to increased aggressive behavior.’, ibid., p. 139.

[21] ‘While use of a home computer is widely assumed to have a positive impact on children’s learning, little research exists to confirm this assumption. The limited evidence available suggests that home computer use is linked to slightly better academic performance, but these studies failed to control for other factors. Thus, it is difficult to know whether a child’s academic performance reflects use of a home computer or a greater level of family income and education-factors that are highly correlated with both home computer ownership and better academic performance.’, Shields & Behrman, ‘Children and Computer Technology: Analysis and Recommendations’, The Future of Children, (10.2.9), 2000.