According to a longitudinal study, kids who watch adult-rated content on TV are more likely to become sexually active at an early age.
Released by Children's Hospital Boston, the study revealed that exposure towards adult content during childhood was linked to early onset of sexual activity among teens.
Tracking children from age six to eighteen, the researchers found that the younger the children were exposed to adult content on TV and movies, the more they became sexually active during adolescence.
"Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents. Our research shows that their sexual attitudes and expectations are influenced much earlier in life," said Dr. Hernan Delgado, fellow in the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston and lead author of the study.
The researchers recruited a total of 754 participants, 365 males and 389 females, in the study and tracked them during two stages in life-first during childhood, and again five years later when their ages ranged from 12 to 18-years-old.
At each stage, the researchers kept a log of the television programs and movies viewed, and the amount of time spent watching them over a sample weekday and weekend day.
They also used the program titles to determine what content was intended for adults, and, in the second stage, they tracked the participants' onset of sexual activity.
The findings revealed that when the youngest children in the sample-ages 6 to 8-years-old-were exposed to adult-targeted television and movies, they were more likely to have sex earlier, compared to those who watched less adult-targeted content.
It was also found that for every hour the youngest group of children watched adult-targeted content over the two sample days, their chances of having sex during early adolescence increased by 33 percent.
However, the reverse of the above findings was not found to be true, which means that becoming sexually active in adolescence did not subsequently increase youth's viewing of adult-targeted television and movies.
"Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships. 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," said Dr. David Bickham, staff scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health and co-author of the study.
He added: "Children learn from media, and when they watch media with sexual references and innuendos, 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.