Tuned-in kids get turned on earlier

Study links adult-aimed TV to sex at younger age

Watching adult-oriented TV shows and movies might prompt kids to start having sex at an earlier age, according to a new study released by Children's Hospital Boston.

It suggests that early onset of sexual activity among teens might relate to the amount of adult content they watched as children.

"Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents," said Hernan Delgado, a pediatrician at the hospital Boston who is lead author of the study. "Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life."

The study consisted of 754 subjects who were tracked during childhood and again five years later, when their ages ranged from 12-18. The study recorded the amount of TV programming and movies viewed over sample days, noting the amount of content geared toward adults. The participants' onset of sexual activity was tracked during the second stage.

When the youngest children in the sample were exposed to adult-targeted entertainment, they were more likely to have sex earlier. In fact, the study found that for every hour the youngest group of kids watched adult-targeted content over two sample days, their chances of having sex during early adolescence increased by 33%. However, the reverse wasn't true -- becoming sexually active early did not increase their viewing of grown-up shows.

"Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships," said David Bickham, co-author of the study. "Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain. Children learn from media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendoes, our research suggests they are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life."

The findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meetings in Baltimore.