Adolescents are overexposed to media and they interact with it everyday; they even interact with friends through it. An average 14-year-old teenager is exposed to almost 12 hours of media such as TV content, music, computers, and videogames, and the same young person is an active consumer for almost 9 hours of their day (study done by Kaiser family foundation).
Usually, media is seen as an enemy: teachers and researchers analyze it, criticize it, and try to fight it. It is very common to listen to people talking about the negative influences that media exerts on adolescents; one of those influences is on sexuality.
Many researchers (Brown et al., 2006; Chandra et al., 2008; Collins et al., 2004; Jackson et al., 2008) have concluded that there is an important media influence on the onset of sexual activities of adolescents from sex images, sex talk, and sexual activities in the media. Other authors (Bleakley, Hennessy, Fishbein, & Jordan, 2008; Steinberg & Monahan, 2011) have found that the teenager’s own selections of the web pages to visit or the TV shows to watch, was the most important variable related to media influence.
Instead of viewing media as an enemy, the idea is to see it and use it as a resource. Social media will be a part of our world for a long time. It’s better to teach it than to fight it. Thus, how can we integrate the media in our sexuality education classes?
Use of social media
According to studies done by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project, 95% of teens use the Internet, and 93% have a computer at home. Of all the Internet consumers, 89% use social networking sites (67% use Facebook and 16% use Twitter). Moreover, three-quarters (74%) of all 7th-12thgraders have a profile on a social networking site.
Peer-reviewed studies have evaluated the impact of digital media-based interventions on sexual health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards sexuality. Guse et al. (2012) reviewed studies published between 2000 and 2011 which were using digital media-based interventions and found that they helped to delay the initiation of sex, others in condom self-efficacy, and others in abstinence attitudes.
Use of the mobile phone
Cellphones are being more common among students. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project has also done research about the use of cellphones. They found that 78% of teens have a cellphone (47% own a smartphone). Furthermore, teens use the cellphone to communicate with others and the volume of texting per day is 60 for the median text user. Teachers who allow the usage of media in the classroom use it as a complement to a lesson. For instance, 73% of the teachers allow their students to use their cellphones to complete assignments.
Researchers such as Gilliam et al., (2011) and Puccio et al., (2006) (as cited in Guse, et al., 2012) conducted projects using cell phones (texting) for HIV prevention among African American male youths which were successful.
In general, teachers agree that using the media in the classroom encourages students’ creativity, personal expression, collaboration among students, sharing their work with others. Therefore, the idea is using those social media sites and the cellphone to keep connected with the students outside of the classroom, and use them as extra-curricular activities related to the sexuality topics previously discussed. Professors can create blogs, and Facebook groups to enhance interaction; they can use hashtags to create connectivity and spirit of sharing among the students.
The use of media can be understood as a distancing technique, in which teachers protect student’s privacy by depersonalizing discussions (DfEE, 2000). Using social media as a distancing technique can help the students to discuss sensitive issues and to improve their decision-making skills in a safe environment.
Furthermore, the use of media is an useful tool for real-world examples (Walker Tileston, 2004); teachers do not need to provide real-world examples and applications, they just need to direct the students to search for the appropriate sources in the Internet. Finally, the use of media helps the teachers to let their students know not only the importance of learning a specific topic, but to understand how it will be important to them personally.
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
Brown, J. D., L’Engle, K. L., Pardun, C. J., Guo, G., Kenneavy, K., & Jackson, C. (2006). Sexy media matter: Exposure to sexual content in music, movies, television, and magazines predicts black and white adolescents’ sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 117(4), 1018-1027. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1406
Chandra, A., Martino, S. C., Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., & Miu, A. (2008). Does watching sex on television predict teen pregnancy? Findings from a national longitudinal survey of youth. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1047-1054.
Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., Kunkel, D., Hunter, S. B., & Miu, A. (2004). Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114(3), e280-9.
Department for Education and Employment, DfEE (2000) Sex and relationships education guidance (Nottingham, Department for Education and Employment).
Duggan, M., & Brenner, J. (2013, February 14). The demographics of social media users 2012. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-media-users/The-State-of-Social-Media-Users.aspx
Gilliam, M., Allison, S., Boyar, R., Bull, S., Guse, K., & Santelli, J. (2011). New media and research: Considering next steps. Sexuality Research & Social policy: A Journal of the NSRC, 8(1), pp. 67-72. doi: 10.1007/s13178-011-0035-4
Guse, K., Levine, D., Martins, S., Lira, A., Gaarde, J., Westmorland, W., & Gilliam, M. (2012). Interventions using new digital media to improve adolescent sexual health: A systematic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(6), pp. 535-543. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.03.014
Jackson, C., Brown, J. D., & Pardun, C. J. (2008). A TV in the bedroom: Implications for viewing habits and risk behaviors during early adolescence. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52(3), 349-367. doi: 10.1080/08838150802205421
Lenhart, A. (2012, March 19). Teens, smartphones & texting. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones/Summary-of-findings.aspx
Purcell, K., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L. (2013, February 28). How teachers are using technology at home and in their classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-and-technology/Summary-of-Findings.aspx
Purcell, K., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L. (2013, July 16). The impact of digital tools on student writing and how writing is taught in schools. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-technology-and-writing/Summary-of-Findings.aspx
Steinberg, L., & Monahan, K. C. (2011). Adolescents’ exposure to sexy media does not hasten the initiation of sexual intercourse. Developmental Psychology, 47(2), 562-576.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundations. (2010, January 20). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8-to 10-years-old. Retrieved from http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/8010.pdf