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Teens on Sex: What They Say About the Media as an Information Source

Teens on Sex:

What They Say About the Media as an Information Source

According to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a third (34%) of teens say some teens have sex because television and movies make it seem “normal” for teens to be sexually active. But, many teens also say that television and movies, after their teachers, parents, and friends, are important sources of information for them on pregnancy and birth control. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they learned “a lot” about these topics from TV shows and movies, and 31% say they’ve learned “some” this way.

Among teenage girls, fashion/beauty magazines, particularly the ones targeted specifically to them, are also an important source of information on sex and its consequences. Seven out of 10 girls age 12-18 say they “regularly” read magazines, such as Seventeen, YM, and Teen. Half (51%) of these readers — or more than a third (36%) of all girls — say the magazines are an important source of information for them on sex, birth control, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. A large majority (69%) — or 21% of all teen girls — say this is often information they don’t get elsewhere.

One in five of all teenage girls 12-18 says she learned “a lot” about pregnancy and birth control from magazines. That’s a higher proportion of girls than those who say they learned “a lot” about these topics from brothers, sisters, or cousins (13%); family planning clinics (13%); or doctors and nurses (12%).


Source: Kaiser Family Foundation Survey on Teens and Sex, June 1996

This fact sheet was prepared as background material for a briefing held on June 24, 1996, entitled “The Entertainment Media As ‘Sex Educators?’ And, Other Ways Teens Learn about Sex, Contraception, STDs, and AIDS.” It was jointly sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the National Press Foundation, and The Alan Guttmacher Institute as part of an ongoing series for journalists on reproductive health topics — specifically, unplanned pregnancy, teenage pregnancy, contraception, and abortion.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.