AAP Report Right And Wrong On Sex Ed
Special Report - September 16, 2010
On September 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement on the influence of media on the sexual habits of adolescents that included recommendations for pediatricians to use in countering the increasingly sexually explicit culture in which adolescents live. The statement, “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media,” included both positive and negative recommendations. It referenced recent evidence pointing “to the media adolescents use frequently (television, music, movies, magazines, and the Internet) as important factors in the initiation of sexual intercourse.”
On a positive note, the statement decries the role of the media as sex education instructor, pointing out that “the United States has some of the most sexually suggestive media in the world.” Often, that message sent by the media about sex is incomplete or false. The statement goes on to encourage parents to closely monitor and limit their children's exposure to media. However, it also calls for more advertising for contraception and emergency contraception, and embedding socially responsible messages about sexuality and sexual activity in programming. A North Carolina mass media campaign encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex was highlighted for its positive impact.
The statement included eight specific recommendations addressed to pediatricians, which include the following positive recommendations:
1. Ask “at least two media-related questions at each well visit" to help parents and adolescents "recognize the importance of the media."
2. Counsel parents on the impact of media and on the importance of their control over their children's exposure to it, including prohibiting TVs and Internet connections in bedrooms, avoiding inappropriate PG-13 and R-rated movies, and making sure social networking on sites like Facebook and MySpace is done safely.
3. Use educational seminars to "encourage the entertainment industry to produce more programming that contains responsible sexual content and that focuses on the interpersonal relationship in which sexual activity takes place," and encourage advertisers "to stop using sex to sell products."
4. Urge limiting the airing of erectile dysfunction ads to after 10PM.
5. "Support further research into the impact of sexual content in the media on children's and adolescents' knowledge and behavior."
Several of the recommendations are more controversial, including encouraging pediatricians to:
6. "Urge schools to insist on comprehensive sex education programs ... that incorporate basic principles of media literacy," and end federal funding for abstinence-only programs.
7. Urge the airing of advertisements for birth control, especially emergency contraceptives.
8. Urge the inclusion of healthy messages about sex and sexuality in media programming, particularly programming watched by children and early teens.
“We applaud the American Academy of Pediatrics for highlighting the increasing sexual content in the media today and its negative impact on children and teens,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Many of these recommendations are something that pediatricians should embrace. But we are disappointed in their unwarranted criticism of abstinence-centered education and their knee-jerk response to the problem of sexual content in the media, which wrongly looks to condom-based sex education and so-called ‘safer’ sex methods as the answer, and will only continue to put young people in danger.”
Brooks continued, “Ads for emergency contraception and sex education programs that encourage risky sexual activities are not the way to solve the problems caused by early media exposure to sex and adolescent sexual activity. The only 100 percent method of protection for teens is abstaining from sexual activity until marriage, and that is the message children and young people need to hear, not only from the media, but also from pediatricians, their teachers, their parents and their communities.”
Sexualization Impacts Girls' Health - February 22, 2007
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