Teenagers should see more ‘safer sex’ scenes in their favourite soaps in order to encourage the use of contraception, a Government report is set to recommend.
A third of young people look to TV for guidance on sex and relationships, the study is expected to show, and the Government says new measures could help viewers’ sexual health.
But a report in 2008 found that American teens who watched lots of programmes with sexual content were twice as likely to become pregnant as those who watched them the least.
Despite this, Gillian Merron, the Public Health Minister, said: “Young people relate to the programmes they watch on TV, so it’s important that they see both realistic and responsible portrayals of sex and contraception.
“It’s not for Government to say what happens on TV, but we can have conversations with broadcasters to help them have a more positive impact on attitudes to sex.
“I’m encouraged that some broadcasters are working to address these issues, and hope others will follow suit.”
The American study spent three years tracking 2,000 teenagers’ exposure to programmes like Friends and Sex and the City.
It found that sexually active teens whose exposure to the programmes was highest were twice as likely to become pregnant or get someone else pregnant as sexually active teens who watched the programmes the least.
One of the researchers, Dr Anita Chandra, said: “Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy. We found a strong association.”
According to a study reported in May children who view TV programmes aimed at adults are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life.
The study found that the younger children were exposed to TV shows with adult content, the sooner they became sexually active during adolescence.
Children who watched less grown-up television were less likely to have early sexual intercourse, it said.
And in a report for the Children’s Society last year, celebrity culture and advertising were two of a number of factors blamed for children having early sex.