But beyond awareness and self-image, tweens and teens are acting on the information gleaned through the media’s constant barrage of sexual themes. Young people’s “sexual media diet” or “SMD” is predictive of the onset of sexual activity.
In a study of 12- to 14-year-old girls, those with larger SMDs were more likely to be sexually active within two years than those who consumed less sexual material. And a 2008 study released in the journal Pediatrics revealed that exposure to sexual content actually is a predictor of teen pregnancy. Other studies confirm that teen girls have high rates of regret about sex and, more often than not, wish they had waited to become sexually active.
The folks at MTV may think they exhibit responsibility by balancing hypersexed shows like “Jersey Shore” with “16 and Pregnant,” another in its “reality” lineup that focuses on the struggles of being a single teen mom. (Really, what is “real” about any of these shows?)
It’s a sure bet they pat themselves on the back for their partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation on a website for young people called Itsyoursexlife.com, which offers advice and information on how to enjoy “safe and healthy” adolescent sex. (The guru at that site is Dan Savage, the vulgar and volatile gay activist who makes news by bashing the Bible.)
But none of MTV's smoke screens can obscure the fact that one of the most popular networks for teens and tweens would sell out the physical, emotional and spiritual health of its audience if it meant making money on a tasteless reality show.
So it’s back to the conference room for the MTV creative team. Can’t you just wait to see what they come up with next?