On sex and violence

Our view: TV and video games are not necessarily harmful to teens

November 11, 2008

At first glance, the results of two studies published recently in the journal Pediatrics seem obvious and menacing: Teens who watch sexually oriented content on TV or play violent games are more likely to act out what they see and hear.

But parents should be relieved to learn that in the real world, the truth is more complicated.

It turns out that lots of teens who play violent games don't get in trouble, and a significant portion of teens - 43 percent - are not sexually active. In fact, the number of unwed teen mothers has been declining steadily since the 1970s, when there was much less sex on TV.

Actually, serious teen violence almost always occurs when there is a convergence of risk factors, including gang involvement, anti-social parents and peers, substance abuse, poverty as well as media violence, according to a recent U.S. surgeon general report.

But almost all experts agree that sitting in front of a TV or computer terminal for several hours a day can be dangerous to a teen's health. With that, we can agree.

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