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While socialization effects are difficult to measure, influence of media as a source of information has been documented. In a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (1997), youth ages 10 to 15 most frequently named mass media as an information source about sexuality. Farrar et al. claim that, “In the realm of sexual socialization, television is thought to contribute to young people’s knowledge about sexual relationships, their judgments about social norms regarding sexual activity, and their attitudes about sexual behavior, among other influences” (2003: 7). This statement has been supported by multiple studies (Farrar et al., 2003). Interest in what young people may be learning from the media is the motivation for content analysis, which is used to form a clearer picture of what messages are actually being presented by the mass media. Broad analyses of content are particularly important in realms like media where “influences on social beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors generally [occur] through a gradual and cumulative process that develops with repeated exposure over time to common and consistent messages” (Farrar et al., 2003: 9).
Analyses of sexual content in television are quite remarkable for the similarity in findings across different researchers and different genres. All television content analyses identify trends of increasing numbers of sexual behaviors and references (while references continue to be more common than behavior), increasing explicitness in sexual behaviors and references, and very few references to sexual risk or responsibility.
In 2000, Nielsen Media Research confirmed that prime time (8pm to 11pm) attracts the largest audience of any time of day. Seventeen of the 20 shows most frequently viewed by adolescents were broadcast during prime time hours in 2000 (Farrar et al., 2003: 9). Researchers have performed a number of studies of sexual content during prime time. The Parents Television