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Censoring Adolescents’ TV Viewing for Their Well Being

Updated on November 30, 2010

Censoring Adolescents’ TV Viewing for Their Well Being

Television can be quite useful by entertaining, educating, and relaxing. Adults certainly can discern what is appropriate for them to watch. Adolescents, on the other hand, need some parental guidance in determining what shows are appropriate for viewing. Television shows that do not promote positive virtues and integrity have negative effects on adolescents and young adults. Shows that have sexual content mislead teenagers and young adults about the outcomes from sexual behaviors. Gossip Girls is an example of a television show portraying young adult characters engaging in sexual and scandalous behavior. These types of shows degrade Christian values.

The Gossip Girls’ television previews are provocative and edgy with messages of seduction. One look at the cast photo on The Gossip Girls’ website gives the impression of temptation. The men are nicely dressed. Some of the women are wearing very low cut and revealing dresses. This image may be appropriate for adult intended audience. This show is based on the book series The Gossip Girls by Cecily von Ziegesar. The books target the young adult readers. The Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of American Library Association ( defines young adults as "someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen". While the television show follows the characters after graduating high school, it would seem that many of the young adult readers would indeed be interested in watching the show.

What is the message we want to tell our young teens? The photo emphasizes the sexy women with classy looking men. This is a negative message to girls and women. Self esteem in teenage girls and young women can be fragile. Many of these young adults may think that if they have a body like one of the characters, or dress in the same manner, they will have the man next to them; their “knight in shining armor”. By portraying this super sexy look to young adults, the producers are doing a disservice. Beauty comes from the inside, not the outside. Young boys and men need to be taught that they must respect girls and women for who they are not because of what they look like.

It is good to be open about sexuality and not hide from it, or be ashamed by it. Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children morals and integrity. Bleakley, Hennessy, Fishein, and Jordan (2008 p.459) stated, “Parents face difficult problems in determining the best way to communicate with their children about both sex in general and in media given the complex pattern between parental disapproval of sex, the positive effect of peer norms, exposure to media, and the adolescent’s sexual behavior.” These are just some factors parents need to take into consideration when determining appropriate television programs.

It is common to think that allowing adolescents to watch television programs with sexual content opens the door to sexual behavior. Bleakley, et al. (2008 p. 458) discussed what they call a “feed back loop”, by stating, “Sexually active youth and adolescents interested in sex may selectively expose themselves to more sexual content in the media and this exposure may, in turn, lead to an increase in sexual activity.” Kim, Collins, Kanouse, Elliott, Berry, and Hunter (2006) support this “feedback loop” in their study by showing that adolescents involved in more intimate sexual activities indeed were watching sexually oriented programs.

Most television programs that have sexual content do not represent the seriousness or the consequences of sexual behavior. It is the parents’ responsibility to explain the different outcomes. It may help if parents understood their adolescents’ interest in these types of shows. What peers are watching may be beneficial in knowing what is being watched outside the home, and what is considered to be “cool”.

Instead of not allowing the television in the home, parents can use the different images and programs on TV as opportunities to start discussions with their teens. With or without TV, sexual images are embedded in our society. Newspapers, magazines, billboards and movies are just a few places where teens will be exposed. As children get older they will spend more time at friends’ homes. At these homes, parents lose some control over what is watched. Kim, et al. (2006 p.462) states, “Finally, having rules about how much and what type of shows are watched on TV, possessing a TV in one’s bedroom, and spending more time unsupervised after school were each associated with heavier viewing of televised sexual content.” It is important that adolescents understand what the rules are and the reasons behind them.

Television shows that air immoral behaviors deteriorate Christian values. The Bible says, “Shun immorality.” (1Cor 6:18 RSV) By reading the Bible, one could see how God looks upon sexual and scandalous type of behaviors. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev.21:8) By allowing such TV programs to be viewed by teenagers, parents are permitting their children to go against God’s will.

Television is not all bad. Stone’s (2008) study found that adolescents feel more relaxed if watching TV with family or alone rather than when with their peers. TV can be a time when family comes together and enjoys appropriate programming. Whether by laughing, learning, or crying, parents and adolescents can enjoy watching TV together.


Bleakley, A., Hennessy, M., Fishbein, M., & Jordan, A. (2008). It Works Both Ways: The Relationship Between Exposure to Sexual Content in the Media and Adolescent Sexual Behavior. Media Psychology , 11 (4), 443-461. doi:10.1080/15213260802491986.

Kim, J., Collins, R., Kanouse, D., Elliott, M., Berry, S., Hunter, S., et al. (2006). Sexual Readiness, Household Policies, and Other Predictors of Adolescents' Exposure to Sexual Content in Mainstream Entertainment Television. Media Psychology , 8 (4), 449-471. doi:10.1207/s1532785xmep0804_6.

Stone, K. (2008). What Do TV Viewing Habits Reveal About Adolescents' Affective States?. Neuropsychiatry Reviews , 9 (2), 7. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Young Adult Library Services Association. American Library Association.(n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2010, from


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