MTV isn’t exactly known for clean family entertainment, but controversy over a new show called “Skins” leaves some questions about whether the network went too far. The new series is based on a British show with the same title and depicts a group of teens and their often dysfunctional relationships and “real life” activities like partying and sexual exploration. While the network insists it’s merely trying to portray an accurate representation of America’s youth, the real question becomes whether these portrayals actually are correct and to what extent they can influence behavior. Ron McLaughlin, professor of psychology, answers some questions about sexuality in youth and the influence of the media.
What do you think all the hype about the show is for? Are there real threats?
”Most of the distress over the show is probably attributed to the fear of “legitimizing” illegal activities like underage drinking and drugs, but McLaughlin questions whether the show could actually have an influence on behavior, saying “it’s hotly debated whether that could translate into real life.” He cites studies which show “people who view violence are usually more accepting of it as a means to solve conflict, but the long term effects are still unknown.” He admits that “Skins” is “probably mirroring what teens are already doing in high school.”
Does sexual content have its place in the media? Has there been any shifts in views about sexuality in the past 10 years?
“ Views about sexuality have changed little over the last 30 years, since the sexual revolution in the late 60’s and 70’s. During that time there were huge shifts in attitudes toward premarital sex and they have remained fairly stable since.” \
“No Strings Attached” a new movie which portrays best friends who become “sex friends,” has been extremely successful. Do think this is because it reflects relationships in reality?
“I know it happens, sometimes even long-term, but I think it’s problematic because probably most teens and college students aren’t interested in casual sex—most people are probably looking for a romantic relationship.” The popular movie shows the struggle these two friends have in not developing stronger feelings for each other, and McLaughlin points to the research saying, “We have this notion that you should fall in love and then have sex, however research shows the exact opposite—if you have sexual relations with someone you will fall in love.” As for the problems of showing these types of relationships in the media, McLaughlin pointedly asks, “Perhaps Skins target audience should be the parents and older people so they could at least be aware of what their teens might be doing.”
-Joyce Eveleth, ‘11 Juniata Online Journalist