(CORRECTION) AAP’s “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media:” What’s Included and What’s Missing?

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(CORRECTION) AAP’s “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media:” What’s Included and What’s Missing?

Bianca I. Laureano

The American Association of Pediatrics makes a statement on youth, contraception, sexuality, and media. Do they get it right?

This article was changed at 7:42 am on Friday, September 17th, to correct an error in the title, which incorrectly referred to AAP as APA.  It is the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). We regret the error.

Before school was back in session for the fall, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) released a revised statement regarding youth, sexuality, contraception and media consumption. The statement was published online on August 30, 2010 and in print on September 3, 2010 in the Pediatrics journal. “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media” with lead author Victor C. Strasburger, MD, is not a new discussion for the AAP, as they made a similar statement, with the same title, almost 10 years ago

In short, the AAP, states that the media (television, music, movies, magazines, and the Internet) impacts the perspectives and education youth receive regarding birth control, sexuality, and choices in general. They make eight recommendations for what pediatricians can do to be more useful and effective sources of information and care for their clients. The eight recommendations include:

1.    Include at least two questions about the media during intake.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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2.    Pediatricians should (yes they used that term) counsel parents and guardians on the importance/impact of the media, helping them recognize the access their child has not only to TV, but the Internet and social networking sites.

3.    Pediatricians and other groups should advocate and demand media create messages that are more responsible in their representations of sexual and reproductive health.

4.    Pediatricians should encourage schools to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education and media literacy into their curricula.

5.    Pediatricians should also advocate for the advertisement of birth control including emergency contraception.

6.    Pediatricians should advocate that advertisements for erectile dysfunction ads on television be limited after 10pm.

7.    Pediatricians should advocate to the broadcast media to provide “healthy” messages of sex and sexuality in their programming.

8.    Pediatricians should partner with various non-governmental organizations, community organizations and the government to do further research on the impact of the media on youth and their sexual health choices.

I’ll admit that I was not expecting too much from the AAP. One of the main reasons I didn’t have high expectations is because often when membership organizations make statements about issues that may intersect with their field, they don’t always “get it” right. To be honest, the main thing that stood out to me about this list of recommendations and the overall statement was the incorporation of media literacy. For me, there is media literacy and then there is media justice.  AAP is making a good first step in recognizing the importance of having our youth be literate and critical consumers of media. As an educator, I often include media literacy in my syllabus and have done so in all of my syllabi over the past 4 years. Yet, do they consider a media justice approach for the future?

I’m also impressed at the encouragement AAP provides its members to become activists in their community with educators, and schools, but also nationally and internationally with reaching out to media representatives. Areas that I think is not addressed are issues of access and class. How are youth who do not have access to certain types of media not being reached in general? If we are to look at how certain media is being used, how MTV is now partnering with social media outlets or the Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline is incorporating, these require 1. access to cable television (MTV specifically), 2. access to the Internet, and 3. access to a cell phone.

Last week I introduced theory to my sociology students. We discussed modernism and post-modernism and one of the ways I explained post-modernism was “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” (Ride with me all you post-modernists, I’m trying to give them a flavor of various theories, attract them to it). If we assume that more “choices” leads to more “freedom” does it really matter when those choices don’t even reach the most under-resourced groups? What does the “freedom” of those communities not reached look like if they aren’t even given the choice in the first place?

I write that to connect this idea of reaching youth in various ways, specifically the media, and to examine what types of media may not be included. Just as the AAP has argued emergency contraception rarely, if ever (I’ve never seen an ad on TV), gets airtime on television, there are many types of media that do not reach our youth. There is also an odd link to the direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies that is supported in this suggestion. The suggestion to limit erectile dysfunction advertisement may not be the most supported recommendation as many physicians who do such work may still be associated, invested, and paid by pharmaceutical companies. I also wonder what the AAP may think of the net neutrality debate, where it may take a position on such issues that may arise. Would they support a open Internet or a regulated one?