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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | Personals | Yellow Pages  January 22, 2004
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When It's Time for 'The Talk,' Call on Some 'Friends'
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By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're looking for a way to broach the subject of sex with your teen, watching a popular TV program together just might give you the perfect opportunity.

And sex education messages learned this way are ones teens tend to remember, says a new report.

In a study appearing in the November issue of Pediatrics, researchers found 65 percent of teens who watched an episode of the program Friends that dealt with the value of condoms in preventing pregnancy later remembered that information. And, teens who watched with their parents were twice as likely to recall specific information from the show compared to the kids who watched alone.

Teens watch an average of almost three hours of television a day, according to the study, and much of that programming contains at least some sexual content.

"TV gets blamed for a lot of bad, but this study suggests that they can do some good things, be educational and still be entertaining," says study author Rebecca Collins, a psychologist with the RAND Corp. "Adding this kind of info to programs can have a really positive impact."

Collins and her colleagues surveyed 506 teenagers from across the United States. All were between 12 and 17 years old, and reported being frequent Friends watchers.

They were asked if they'd seen one particular episode in which two characters, Ross and Rachel, were discussing how Rachel could have become pregnant even though they had used a condom during a sexual encounter. Ross checked a condom box and discovered that it said condoms were between 95 percent and 100 percent effective.

Three hundred and twenty-three of the teens recalled seeing the episode. Forty percent watched it with an adult, and 10 percent talked with an adult about condom effectiveness after watching this episode.

After the show, 65 percent of the teens remembered the condom failure caused the pregnancy. Between 10 percent and 17 percent of the teens said they learned something new about condoms during the episode.

Forty percent of the teens who watched with adults remembered the specific effectiveness rate, compared to only 20 percent of teens who watched alone.

Collins says teens watching with adults may have paid more attention to the show, or she says, parents talking about the show may have reinforced the message.

"Watching TV with your kids and talking to them about it can be a great opportunity for parents to have an impact on what kids take away from programming," Collins says.

Carol Weston, author of the book For Teens Only, says, "Teens watch too much TV and often see too much sex on TV. But the good news is if a family is enjoying a TV show together it gives parents an opportunity to give vital and possibly lifesaving information."

"Parents have trouble talking to their kids about sex," Weston says. "They know they should have 'the' talk, and an ongoing conversation about sex, but they're reluctant to bring it up." But, she notes, "A lot of kids are waiting for their parents to bring it up."

It's much easier, she says, if parents and teens can talk about the sexual activities of fictional characters. And, she adds, it's important that parents don't belittle the shows their children enjoy.

More information

To read more about children and TV, visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry or the Center for Media Education.

SOURCES: Rebecca Collins, Ph.D., psychologist, RAND Corp., Santa Monica, Calif.; Carol Weston, author, For Teens Only, New York City; November 2003 Pediatrics

Copyright � 2003 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

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