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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Survey: Kids Say TV Is Negative Influence

LOS ANGELES -- Most children say that what they see on television encourages them to take part in sexual activity too soon, to show disrespect for their parents, to lie and to engage in aggressive behavior, according to a survey released Monday.

The nationwide poll, conducted by Children Now, a national children's advocacy group, asked children aged 10 to 16 how television shapes their values.

"I think it pressures people my age,'' said Rayelyn Rodriguez, a 14-year-old Southgate, California, girl who was among the 750 children in the survey. They think if they see it on TV, they want to go do it too.''

More than two-thirds of the young people said they are influenced by television. Seventy-seven percent said TV depicts too much sex before marriage, and 62 percent said sex on television and in movies influences their peers to have sexual relations when they are too young. Two-thirds said that shows such as "The Simpsons'' and "Married ... With Children'' encourage youthful viewers to treat their parents with disrespect.

"With a show like 'Married ... with Children,' kids talk back to their parents, and they always hit them up for money and stuff,'' said Jesse Lunn, 13, of Mission Viejo, California.

An overwhelming majority of young people polled also said that television should help teach values, but instead often show people getting away with -- and sometimes triumphing by -- deceitful behavior or physical aggression.

The survey was conducted in January under the sponsorship of Children Now.

Researchers interviewed an ethnically balanced sample of children nationwide via telephone, with about a 3 percent margin of error, and focused on cable and broadcast programs airing during the evenings, pollster Paul Maslin said. The purpose, according to James P. Steyer, president of the Oakland, California-based Children Now, was to examine the lessons imparted by the young characters on entertainment shows.

"We ought to listen to what kids themselves say, and 82 percent of them say the media should teach them right from wrong,'' said Steyer. "Kids seem to be suggesting that antisocial behavior should not be rewarded.''

The findings have prompted Children Now to ask television programmers to show viewers the consequences of antisocial behavior, and to depict children dealing with real-life problems credibly and making wise decisions on difficult issues. The organization is also calling on program producers and writers to include less sexual activity -- especially sex before marriage and at a young age.

"We're not suggesting that television should be the scapegoat for all these heavy issues relating to kids and values, but it can't be a scofflaw either,'' Steyer said. "This is a positive challenge, not an indictment.''

The study found that 60 percent of the teenagers questioned have television sets in their bedrooms, and 65 percent have three or more sets in the home. Forty-four percent said they watch different programs when alone or with friends than when they were with their parents. When away from their parents, the children polled said they most frequently watch MTV.