1. Why are teenagers more affected than adults by sexual content in the media?
I don’t know that teenagers are more affected by sexual content than adults are. I do know that teenagers run a terrible risk when they engage in sexual activity as a result of being sexually stirred by what they see in the media. Another thing I know is that much of the sexual content in the media is targeted to the teenage demographic and is, therefore, more titillating to teens than to adults.
2. Do T.V. programs with sexual content influence a young person’s decision to have sex? Why?
There is an ongoing debate about how much influence television has on people’s behavior. I don’t think it is a legitimate debate when advertisers spend billions of dollars on 30 second advertisements. They certainly think that television influences behavior; they believe and they have data to prove that people go out and buy their products because of the effectiveness of a particular advertisement. Likewise, I am convinced that television influences young people’s decisions and that certain special interest groups use that influence to achieve their purposes. For instance, the gay lobbyists have made significant strides in getting a more positive and pervasive gay presence in television programming because they are convinced that it will change public opinion and attitudes. Likewise, programs like “Friends” and “Sex and the City” help to shape attitudes and behavior. Recently, Whoopie Goldberg commented that American parents have no idea that their kids are absorbing ghetto culture and values through rap and music videos. She makes an important point: young people absorb the values of the culture that surrounds them and especially the music and entertainment that bombards their minds all day long.
3. Do TV Programs targeting teens often promote positive depictions of casual sexual relationships. How?
The overwhelming image on television and in the general media is of promiscuous sexuality and the pervasive attitude is that all sex is good, all the time. The depictions are totally unrealistic. For instance, they promote the idea that girls can enjoy sex without a relationship and that sexual feelings are instantaneous boy meets girl, they fall in bed, both end up happy. In reality, the girl usually thinks that the guy has strong feelings for her like she feels for him. When she discovers that he doesn’t, she feels used and discarded; there is not much for her in those quick groping sessions.
4. Do teens feel the need to have sex because TV and movies make it seem “normal” for teens to be sexually active. Why?
I think television and movie depictions give teens an excuse to act on their instincts and to abandon self-control and self-discipline. The attitudes that “everyone is doing it” and “only prudes say no” and that virginity is something that you discard as soon as possible exerts tremendous pressure on teenagers who want to fit in and be popular. One survey that I saw revealed that “peer pressure” was the prime reason that teenagers engaged in sexual intercourse.
5. Is it the older generation’s fault that sexual behavior among teens has increased?
I think that my generation has failed today’s generation because we have allowed the media and entertainment world to shape reality for teenagers today. We have also allowed the perpetuation of dangerous myths because we have been too busy with our own concerns to spend enough time with young people and we have been unwilling to straight-forwardly present TRUTH to them. As a result, teens have been left with information that was shaped by the popular media. Sadly, too many are now carrying unnecessary emotional baggage and cynical attitudes that will make it difficult for them to have meaningful relationships. In addition, a major problem is the change in attitude about morality. Today’s culture doesn’t admit to right and wrong. Thus, many young people reject Biblical standards as outdated and irrelevant in daily life and decision-making.
6. How has the rate of sexual behavior increased since the 19th Century?
I am haunted by reports that young people today are sexually active for an average of seven or eight years before marriage and I’ve seen the skyrocketing statistics about sexually transmitted diseases. Since 1960, the number of cohabiting couples has increased by nearly 1000 percent. Nearly 5 million couples lived together in the year 2000 compared to fewer than half a million in 1960.
7. What are some solutions to encouraging a decrease in sexual behavior among teens?
Truth is the key. Teenagers need to know the consequences of sexual promiscuity. They need to know that behaviors have consequences and that every choice involves sacrifice and risk: if you choose abstinence before marriage, you sacrifice immediate gratification and the “fast” lifestyle, but you gain the ability to focus on developing skills and education for the future and you are guaranteed to avoid unwed pregnancy, STDs and missed opportunities. If you have sex before marriage you sacrifice aspects of your future marital relationship for a certain type of popularity in the present and you run the risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease (now there are over 20 varieties some that have no cure and some with long-range, multiple complications including infertility). And, there is an overwhelming need for faith-based decision-making and for lives that are transformed into the image of Christ. George Barna, who collects polling data on Christians, has revealed that Christian lifestyles are often not different from secular ones. We must teach young people that God’s principles for living are a sure-fire way to a successful life!
8. When did the issue of teenagers having sex at a young age first become a problem?
It has always been a problem. The new twist is the sheer numbers of teens who are experimenting especially now, with oral sex which many do not consider to be “sexual activity” because of the publicity surrounding the former President’s scandal and the severity of the associated problems. Previously, out-of-wedlock pregnancy was the dreaded complication. Now, the threat of HIV/AIDS has added a life-and-death dimension. Other STDs are also major problems. What receives less attention, but is equally troubling are the psychological ramifications and the bonding problems that stem from multiple sexual partners. In addition, college counselors report that their caseloads have increased dramatically for depression, eating disorders and attempted suicide.
9. What boundaries do you believe should by put on television producers regarding the depiction of physical relationships on TV shows?
I would like to see producers voluntarily assume responsibility for reversing the cultural disintegration that is so damaging to young people today. The coarsening of our culture is apparent all around us even in the “good” movies and songs. Until adults in influential positions take responsibility for their actions, things will continue to get worse. Laws are not nearly as desirable as voluntary governing because they can only enforce; they cannot change hearts and attitudes. I would like to see parents and adults at the grass roots level exert pressure to say that they will no longer put up with such cultural pollution. When we affect that bottom line by refusing to buy tickets and attend movies or concerts it will have impact.
10. Which examples of TV shows seem to be the worst offenders in promoting loose or immoral behavior?
You’ll probably be surprised at my answer. I think the most blatant offenders are the least effective in influencing the public they contribute to the breakdown of the culture and the coarsening of the cultural climate, but they aren’t as effective in influencing people as the more subtle ones. The ones I worry about most are the insidious ones; the ones where the offense sort of slips past the public and is, thus, more widely seen and heard, and is therefore more influential. The ones that are “in our face” can be countered fairly easily, but the ones that are buried in the middle of “good” stuff get past us too often sometimes because it seems petty to object to a minor offense when the rest of the movie or the song is so good. I’m generally dismayed to view old movies and see the attitudes about family, love, relationships that laid the groundwork for what we are overwhelmed with today.