How Films Affect Teens' Behavior

Films are a major part of teenage life and culture. From going to the cinema with a group of friends to sitting at home in front of a laptop, teenagers have made cinema a major part of their lives. Because of the amount of consumption of film-based media, the influence on their developing minds is considerable, according to researchers. But are the negative influences a cause for concern? Researchers have found that there might be reason to think so after all.

Sexy Decisions

Research in an article published by Psychological Science suggests that exposure to sexually charged films could influence younger teens' sex-related decisions further down the line. Researchers reviewed the content of several films deemed to be “sexually charged.” They then quizzed a group of teenagers, asking each one which of these films they had and hadn’t seen. The results showed that the teens who had seen the majority of the films on the sexually charged list were more likely to have lost their virginity, had multiple lovers and engaged in infidelity.

Negative Messages

Although it is impossible to say that exposure to sexual content in films is directly related to a teen’s future sexual decision-making, a correlation does exist, according to Ross O'Hara, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri who led the teen-movie sex research. O'Hara also noted a worrying observation: The majority of those sexually charged movies depicted sex without the use of protection.

Smoking's Cool

According to the website WebMD, several studies have shown the power of films to influence a teen’s decision to start smoking. A study carried out by Dr. James Sargent at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon has shown that smoking in films can influence teens, regardless of the film’s rating. The study shows that a film with a PG-13 rating could be just as influential as an R-rated film when it comes to influencing kids to smoke.

The Scare Factor

Researcher Kristen Harrison conducted a study at the University of Wisconsin that found that watching scary films can have short- and long-term damages on teenagers 3. Fifty-two percent of the participants involved in the study, consisting of about 150 students, said they had disturbances in normal behavior in adolescence as a result of exposure to scary, R-rated films. These “disturbances” included sleep difficulties and continual avoidance of events shown in the films, such as swimming in the ocean after watching "Jaws." Twenty-five percent of these participants admitted that they still suffer from these symptoms.

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