Many adolescents are exposed to a significant amount of sexual content in the media. This has far-reaching effects on their sexual practices as this exposure is occurring at a period when most adolescents are often not sure of the choices to make, and the choices they make during adolescence affect their health when they become adults. The aim of this study was to assess the association between exposure of in-school adolescents to sexual content in the electronic media and their sexual intentions.
In this cross-sectional study, information was obtained from 750 senior secondary school students in private and public schools using interviewer-administered questionnaire. Sexual media content in the movies, music video and Internet was assessed using a modified version of the sexual media diet tool. The dependent variable was sexual intention; the main independent variable was exposure to sexually explicit content in the media and confounders that were controlled for selected individual (age, sex, religiosity, self-esteem and attachment to parents), family (parents’ marital status, parents’ type of marriage, hands-on parenting and parent-adolescent communication on sex) and environmental factors (school connectedness and influence from peers) which were previously reported to be associated with sexual intentions of adolescents. Chi-square test was used to determine associations between sexual content of the electronic media and adolescents’ sexual intentions, and confounders were controlled for using logistic regression analysis.
Thirty-six percent of respondents were exposed to overtly explicit sexual content from all forms of media in the 3 months prior to this study. Twenty-four percent of the adolescents indicated their intention to have sex within 12 months following the study. Predictors of sexual intention were as follows: moderate [odds ratio, OR=2.21 (95% confidence interval, CI: 1.22–3.99)] and high exposure to sexual content in the media [OR=3.02 (95% CI: 1.69–5.43]; attending a public school [OR=2.19 (95% CI: 1.26–3.83)]; moderate peer pressure [OR=2.36 (95% CI: 1.41–3.95)] and high peer pressure [OR=10.32 (95% CI: 2.94–36.31)]; and previous history of sexual intercourse [OR=3.89 (95% CI: 2.25–6.76)].
Many adolescents were exposed to sexually explicit content in the media and this had a strong association with sexual intention. Interventions to censor sexually explicit content in the media are required to protect adolescents from the consequences of early exposure to sex.
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