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Sex Sells — NOT!

Four recent studies find that sex doesn't sell as much as once believed, and teens are indeed aware that television impacts viewers' attitudes and actions. Researchers found that televisions in children's bedrooms have a negative impact, and in the latest viewing season, father figures returned to television shows in significant numbers.

The studies found:

• Television programs laden with strong sexual references or violence significantly reduce the viewer's ability to recall commercials included in the programs, according to a study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University.

The study concluded that people watching shows filled with sexual innuendo, performers with revealing clothes, or sexual scenes were much less likely to remember the ads both immediately after the show and a day later.

According to a June 16 Washington Post article, if the research is replicated and confirmed, it could severely challenge the popular notion that more sex in shows equals more viewers and a wider response to advertisements. The researchers say their work could show advertisers and programmers that sex and violence do not sell after all, potentially revolutionizing the television industry.

"The simplest explanation is that people who watch a sexual program are thinking about sex instead of about the ads," said Brad Bushman of Iowa State in an interview with the Washington Post. "People who watch a violent program are thinking about violence, not laundry detergent or soda pop. If you don't pay attention to the ads, you won't encode them in memory."

• Seventy-two percent of teens surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation recently said that sexual behaviors on television influenced the sexual behaviors of their peers "somewhat" or "a lot," according to a June 7 issue of The Pastor's Weekly Briefing by Focus on the Family. However, only 22 percent think that television influences their own behavior, despite the fact that 43 percent say television has taught them how to talk with a boyfriend or girlfriend about "safer sex" and 60 percent say they've learned from television how to say "no" to a sexual situation that makes them uncomfortable.

• Children who have televisions in their bedrooms watch five-and-a-half hours more television per week, according to a study conducted by the Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family as reported by The Pastor's Weekly Briefing.

"What the research shows is that kids who watch more television ... play less well with friends," said Dr. Douglas Gentile, co-author of the study conducted during the 2001-02 television season. "They are more likely to become obese, they do less well in school, and they are more likely to be aggressive and violent as adults."

• Prime-time television shows featuring fathers who are more involved in their children's lives are more common today than in years past, according to a study conducted by the Parents Television Council. Even so, the television programs are not promoting traditional families in which children live with both married parents, the study found.

According to a June 17 Washington Times article, 64 percent of children on all 119 sitcoms and dramas live with their biological fathers, and 83 percent have father figures, but the study found that less than 50 percent live in traditional households.

"This is a glorification of the broken family," said L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of the Parents Television Council. "But as a result, what we're seeing is fathers are getting more involved in their children's lives because of these broken families. So this is both good and bad news."

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October 2002 Edition
Volume 11, Issue 1
October 2002