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ADOLESCENT DECISION MAKING:
IMPLICATIONS FOR PREVENTION PROGRAMS
The media — television, radio, movies, music videos — are part of the social environment in which today's young people grow up, and they can contribute to setting social norms. Presenter Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, pointed out that young teenagers spend up to seven hours a day watching television and that older teenagers may spend more than seven hours a day listening to the radio and CDs or watching music videos. There is a tremendous amount of sexual innuendo and sexual activity portrayed in the media, and most of that sexual activity is between unmarried people, according to Brown. In her research, presenter Monique Ward, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, found that 29 percent of interactions between television characters is sexual in nature (Ward, 1995). She pointed out that drinking permeates television, with 70 percent of prime time network shows portraying at least one instance of alcohol consumption. There is also some indication that the portrayal of cigarette smoking is on the increase both in movies and on television (Klein et al., 1993; Terre et al., 1991). Little research has been done to document the effect of media portrayals of sexual behavior or alcohol, tobacco, and drug use on the behavior of teenagers. Ward has found some evidence that the media may influence social norms. Her research found that young adults who watch television shows with high sexual content, such as nighttime soap operas and music videos, tend to have more liberal sexual attitudes and to believe their peers are more sexually active than do those who do not watch such shows.
Advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to influence product purchases. A number of studies have shown that tobacco advertising and promotional activities may encourage young people to begin and t...
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