Sex, Sexuality, Sexting, and SexEd: Adolescents and the Media

By Jane D. Brown, Ph.D., Sarah Keller, Ph.D., and Susannah Stern, Ph.D.
The Prevention Researcher,
Volume 16, Number 4, 2009, Pages 12-16, Item# A164-Brown

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The traditional media (television, radio, movies, magazines) and new, digital media (the Internet, Social Networking Sites such as Facebook and Myspace, and cell phones) have become important sex educators for adolescents. Adolescents in the United States spend six to seven hours a day with some form of media, often using more than one kind simultaneously.

Studies show that exposure to the frequent, yet typically unhealthy sexual content in traditional media is related to sexual outcomes ranging from body dissatisfaction, to earlier sexual intercourse, less contraceptive use, and even pregnancy. Preliminary research about the uses of the new media suggest that adolescents are using the Internet to find sexual health information, and social networking to express sexual identity and desires, and to find and maintain relationships. Traditional and new media have also been used to promote healthier sexual behavior among adolescents with promising results. This article reviews how youth are using the new media to learn about sex, and how it can be employed to promote healthier sexual behavior.

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