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Should Television Shows Created for Teens Portray Risky Behavior?

Updated on June 21, 2013

Should Television Shows Created for Teens Portray Sex and Risky Behaviors?

There are many television shows on the air that portray teenagers as having sex, doing drugs and partying harder than most adults. Even though this is a sad reality, should television shows really portray teenagers as partaking in these activities? Should television shows portray teenagers having sex and partying at all? Could watching sex and risky behavior on television implant the thought that it is acceptable behavior for teenagers to partake in? It is known that the average teenager watches three to four hours of television per day. These television shows that are aimed directly toward teenagers, such as Pretty Little Liars, The Carrie Diaries, and Gossip Girl, portrays sexual activity and risky behavior and highlights it as humor and casual activity that has little to no consequence. Many people believe that when teenagers watch risky behavior, sex, pregnancy and contraception issues on television it will help educate them, but it is not the televisions job to educate teenagers, it is the parental figures job to educate children about sex, therefore television should not portray sexual activities and risky behaviors as much as they do. By portraying sexual activity and risky behavior on television shows that are directed toward teens it only promotes premature sexual activity and poor decision making by highlighting it as a normal activity for teenagers to engage in.

Teenage couple embracing on a river bank.
Teenage couple embracing on a river bank. | Source

The Negative Results of Premature Sexual Activity

When teens engage in sexual activity before a mature age, they are putting themselves at major risk. Teens whom engage in sexual activity are at a large risk for sexual transmitted disease (STD's), unplanned pregnancy, and many social and mental consequences that are involved with premature adult decision making. Teenagers do not understand consequence, and when they see sex portrayed on television shows they believe this activity to be normal and they will become more likely to engage in sexual activities before they graduate high school. If teens are constantly exposed to adult behaviors and activities than they are more than likely to engage in these activities and behaviors before they are ready to deal with the consequences both physically and emotionally.

Many teens believe that they are invincible, and when they engage in adult activities such as sex, they also believe that teen pregnancy and contracting a sexually transmitted disease will not happen to them. The reality is that most teenagers get pregnant the first time they have sex, mostly due to the fact that they do not understand how to use birth control properly or because they completely lack on protecting themselves all together. Also, it is very likely that if a teen has multiple sexual partners they will end up contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Birth control only prevents against pregnancy, and even when one uses condoms, one can still contract a sexually transmitted disease (since some diseases are spread through skin to skin contact, such as herpes and genital warts). When teens engage in premature sexual activity there are a lot of overwhelming emotions that come along with sex that many teens are not emotionally stable to handle.

For young girls sex can create an overwhelming sense of attachment (especially when they engage in sexual activity for the first time). Teenage girls grow a sense of attachment to the person after engaging in sexual activity and this can lead to unrequited love followed by panic and depression. Teenage girls do no know or understand how to properly deal with emotional stress, and when one engages in sexual activity at a young age they are putting themselves under this stress. If a young girl does not understand how to deal with emotional stress in a healthy manner, they are at risk for other detrimental behaviors. To cope many teenage girls develop addiction issues, eating disorders, or engage in sexual activity with many partners which only cause more harm to the teenagers life. Young women may feel that they need to engage in sexual activity so boys will like them, which will cause self esteem issues, jealousy and rumors amongst other teenage girls, which will cause emotional strain and depression. Young women are also at risk of teenage pregnancy when they have sex and do not understand how to properly protect themselves from becoming a young mother. An unplanned child can cause extreme hardship on a teenage girl, specially since most of the time the biological father of the child is less than likely to be a part of the entire process and raising the unplanned baby. Engaging in premature sex causes emotional strain due to unexpected attachment, physical strain when one contracts and STD or becomes pregnant, and financial strain when one has to purchase birth control or becomes pregnant with an unplanned child. Young girls are not the only ones who suffer from hardships when engaging in premature sexual activity, there is strain on the young boys as well.

Just because teenage boys cannot become pregnant does not mean that they do not suffer from hardships and consequences from engaging in premature sexual activity. Teenage boys are more than likely to take on many sexual partners due to their flooding male hormones. The more sexual partners one has the more risk there is in contacting a sexual transmitted disease. If a teenage boy has multiple sexual partners they may contract and spread a sexually transmitted disease to teenage girls, causing everyone emotional and physical harm. Teenage boys do not always understand the emotional attachment that young girls can create after having sex which then creates arguments and tension between the teenagers. Teenage boys also do not always comprehend that teenage girls are not always on birth control and due to a lack of personal finances the boys may not purchase any condoms as well resulting in teenage pregnancy. When young people endure an unplanned pregnancy it causes tension and adult decision making that many young boys can not handle in which they tend to ignore their responsibilities. When a young man abandons his responsibilities he is ultimately putting more responsibility on those that surround him, which then causes more tension and stress in his life as well. If the young man does accept the consequences and responsibilities that come along with teenage pregnancy he is taking on financial and emotional strain that comes with trying to raise, care, and financially support a family.

Many young people believe that engaging in sexual activity is a normal act and behavior for young people. Sex causes emotional strain whether or not teenagers are actually engaging in it or not. If teenagers are not having sex it causes teasing and torment, especially among teenage boys. Among teenage girls it is quite the opposite, girls are tormented and teased if they engage in sexual activity. Sex among teenagers is a very emotionally straining for everyone, and sometimes teens lose a sense of self trying to maintain sexual relationships. If teens did not believe that sexual activity is normal and portrayed on television as something they should be doing, teens may be able to learn how to gain a sense of accomplishment and self development without having the stress of making adult decisions before they are capable of dealing with the consequences and emotions in a healthy manner.


The Negative Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

When television shows portray risky behaviors, teenagers will believe this to be a normal behavior for their age group as well. It is a reality that teenagers do engage in risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and partying, but that does not mean that television shows geared toward teens should condone this behavior. When teens drink alcohol and do drugs while alone or at a large gathering of friends it can cause many detrimental effects and behaviors that will cause the teens involved unnecessary stress and issues. Drinking alcohol lowers everyones ambitions which causes one to make poor decisions since they do not think about the consequences these actions may cause. Since teens do not understand consequences when they are not drinking alcohol, they make even worse decisions while they are drinking, partying or doing drugs. When teens party, they tend to make poor decisions such as driving under the influence, which could potentially give these underage kids a DUI, cause accidents, and even become fatal. When teens drink under the influence they engage in premature and unprotected sex which could potentially cause sexually transmitted disease or teenage pregnancy. Teens ambitions and behaviors are already lowered without the thought of consequence, so when partying, drugs, and alcohol are combined with this it is a recipe for teenage disaster, which will cause inevitable negative effects. When teens drink alcohol or do drugs they have not yet learned about tolerance and effects, which causes many teens to blackout and not remember what they did the previous night. Blackouts cause unnecessary stress, fear, and paranoia that teens do not know how to handle. Many teens wake up the next morning to discover their friends are angry with them, they may have engaged in unknown sexual behavior, or they even wake up at home and do not have any memory of how they arrived. Another consequence many teens do not think about when engaging in risky behaviors is alcohol poisoning and overdose. Teenagers do not have a sense of control, so when they drink or do drugs they tend to more than their young bodies can handle which can cause severe alcohol poisoning and drug overdose, which more than likely turn fatal. Drinking alcohol and doing recreational drugs as a teen, one can easily turn this "party stage" into a serious addiction. When one grows dependent on drugs and alcohol to deal with stress, they can carry this addiction with them for the rest of their lives, which will only cause them more harm and stress in the future. When teens watch this type of activity on television, they believe that this type of behavior is normal and acceptable. Teens believe that if they engage in this type of behavior then they to will not have to suffer any consequences for their actions, and again, just as premature sex, this is a false reality.

Should Teenage Television Shows Portray Sex and Risky Behavior?

So, should television shows that are specifically geared toward teenagers portray sex and other risky behaviors? This is a very difficult question to answer since sex is a part of human nature, especially when teens first hit puberty, but instead of portraying sex on television shows, these shows should highlight more responsible decision making and contraception methods, while teaching teens to be successful, independent and safe, not reckless, irresponsible, and partaking in risky behaviors. Teenagers should be more concerned about their futures instead of being concerned with sex and partying, so therefore the role models portrayed on the television screen should instill positive morals and actions in the viewers. Even though there are television shows that do portray the hardships and difficulties one may face by engaging in premature sexual activity and risky behaviors, there are many more that portray sex and partying as a normal day to day activity with little to no consequence, which then makes teens believe that if they do have sex, drink, or do drugs there will not be any real life consequences that they will have to endure. These shows instill a false sense of reality in young minds. Teens must be educated about the impact of their decisions will have on their lives because teens will inevitably make poor decisions so they should not be encouraged to do so by the shows they watch on television. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll may sell, but it also causes harm, poses dangers, and creates unnecessary stress for an impressionable teen.

Do you think teen television should portray sex?

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    • Stormy1990 profile image


      5 years ago

      Personally, i don't think movies and tv shows should not portray sexual activity at all,even if it clearly portrays the consequences. To visually see a sex scene, no matter what it is for, engrains into minds (not just young people either) and makes them live it in there minds. This makes the synapses in the brain (if i may become scientific) strengthen, making it more and more difficult to resist these temptations in real life.

      Sex education, of course, is a must, kids have to learn sometime. but do they really have to learn it on TV? I believe parents should be responsible for teaching their children about sex.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      You covered this topic very well. Obviously, it is the parent's job to teach their children about sex and to monitor their activities. Of course, they are not always home due to work and other commitments, so they cannot monitor what their child might watch on TV all the time.

      I don't think these shows are good for teens, and sometimes even younger children watch them. I am glad you wrote about this important topic as I think TV and movies definitely have a big impact on the beliefs of our children. Good parenting is still the most important influence on their children. These shows just make it tougher.

    • Haunty profile image


      5 years ago from Hungary

      Milk for babies, meat for grown men. Sometimes, it's really that simple.

      Even if we do away with TV portraying risky behavior for teens, that will only be fire-fighting, as the source of the problem lies much deeper in the education system. Namely, people without some sense or feeling of a unified ground of the world, will always be lost in it. (Reference: Alan Watts)

    • JamiJay profile imageAUTHOR

      Jami Johnson 

      5 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      Bill, I do agree with you that parents should educate and monitor their teens, but I also believe with technology these days, such as smart phones, tablets and laptops, it may become harder to do so. I think there should be more positive role models on the screen especially when it comes to television shows specifically geared toward teens (I also feel the same way about some pop stars and the media too, but I only focused on TV here). Thanks for commenting, I always appreciate your point of view :)

      You have a great weekend as well!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jami, this is such a huge issue. Of course they shouldn't portray this sort of thing, but then parents should monitor impressionable kids and their behaviors, and if they are doing a good job at home teaching proper behavior then these shows will have no effect. There were war movies when I was a kid but we didn't all grow up wanted to shoot someone.....we were raised to understand the difference between real life and make believe. :)

      Enough from me. Have a great weekend and good job on this topic.


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