I was on my way to pick up my son, listening to my favorite radio station. It was a gorgeous day--I had the windows rolled down and was singing along to "Tonight I'm Loving You" by Enrique Iglesias.
Here's the situation
Been to every nation
Nobody's ever made me feel the way that you do
You know my motivation
Given my reputation
Please excuse I don't mean to be rude
But tonight I'm loving you
All of a sudden I had visions of my little guy singing this song. Immediately, my brain went on overdrive and I realized there are some really sexually explicit songs out there. Enrique made me wonder if the lyrics of songs by Latino artists might be worse than others, so I quickly began the exercise of thinking of the major pop songs I know: "I Wanna Go" by Britney Spears, "Give me Everything" by Pitbull, "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry, "S&M" by Rihanna...the list doesn't stop there. Apparently, it doesn't matter. Whatever kind of music you choose, be it Top 40, hip hop, Latino etc., you will find sexually explicit lyrics. I started coming up with ways of protecting my future teenager from hearing any such material.
Then I took a deep breath and began remembering the songs of my youth. Songs like "Push It" by Salt-n-pepa, "I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)" by Luke, "El Baile de Perrito," and--who can't forget--"Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew. I can go on...
Sexually-charged songs have existed for a while, so I had to ask myself; do they influence a teen's sexual behavior? A study conducted by Rand Corporation found that teens who watch a high level of sexual content on TV are twice as likely as their peers who watch less sexy stuff on TV to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy by age 16.
That report also highlighted the fact that consequences of sexual behavior are rarely if ever addressed in the media. 16 and Pregnant has changed that and as a result proven extremely effective (PDF).
Interestingly, Latino teens (70%) are more likely than non-Hispanic black (58%) or non-Hispanic white (37%) teens to strongly agree that certain situations on television make them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy (PDF).
Of course TV and radio are completely different animals, presumably with different levels of influence. But regardless, at the end of the day, media isn't what most influences our teens.
While sexually explicit material seems to increase with each passing decade, overall sexual intercourse among youth is down from 52.1% in 1995 to 45.6% in 2009. And that is also true for Latino teens, among whom it's down from 53.5% in 1995 to 45.4% in 2009.
The good news doesn't stop there. Overall, teen births have gone down 37% across the nation. For Latino teens, births have gone down 26%.
So again I asked myself, what does really influence our children's decision to have sex? According to our With One Voice poll, teens say parents most influence a teen's decision about sex. The proportion is highest among Latino teens. Teens who are close to their parents and feel supported by them are more likely to delay sex, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception more consistently. The key is to have many conversations and become truly engaged in your teen's life.
So parents, next time you're in the car listening to the radio, take a deep breath and take the opportunity to talk to your teen.
"I love my music !" image by shankar, shiv.