The Rand recommendation to broadcasters is something -- but falls short. What they should have pushed, but couldn't find the nerve to push, is the simple idea that broadcasters should stop promoting adult messages about sex to impressionable children.
The Rand team said parents should consider limiting their children's access to programming with sexual content and spending more time watching programs alongside their children so they can discuss the consequences of sex. That advice is sound, but again, only to a point. Parents ought not to have to devote themselves to discussing with their youngsters that which should be kept from them in order to protect their innocence.
Doctors are even urged to ask teenagers "about their media use," a concept that smacks of political correctness and dilutes the seriousness of the report.
Predictably, the knee-jerk defenders of anything-goes television have tried to dismiss these findings, mocking the idea that TV shows can lead to any kind of behavior. In an online chat at The Washington Post website, one questioner joked, "If I watch a steady TV diet of the three 'CSIs,' 'Law and Order,' 'Life on Mars,' 'Cold Case' and 'NYPD Blue' reruns, will I turn into a police detective?"
To which there's the obvious answer: Rand's researchers in no way tried to prove a drop-dead connection, that television causes pregnancy. They merely suggested the logical, that there is an association -- just as the people who advertise for the Olive Garden hope there's an association that leads more people to eat at their restaurants. Rand also suggested other media -- magazines, the Internet, certainly pop music -- have an effect as well.
Another Post chatterer more sensibly wrote, "Surely if we did a study of adults, we'd find that adults who watch shows about politics were also more politically active." There is no doubt that hormone-exploding teenaged viewers are going to find a sex scene interesting to watch, which is why Hollywood complies by producing so many of them.
Once again, the TV networks and their lobbyists have responded to Rand's research by insisting that no one can prove their deluge of sex scenes has any influence on any of our country's social problems. It is what one professes when he has nothing with which to defend himself.