The Air They Breathe: How Media May Shape Boys' and Girls' Beliefs About Sex and Gender, Their Sexual Behavior, and Their Futures

Each day, youths spend more than seven hours with some kind of media, and when one accounts for the use of two media at once, they clock in at nearly eleven total hours of watching, listening, or generating content. This creates the potential for powerful influence on young people's lives, both positive and negative. How might current media images of girls influence how they see themselves and their potential? Do the portrayals of sex that saturate popular music, television, and film influence behavior? We will discuss when and how media use might put well-being and future opportunities at risk, and how it might be harnessed by parents, content creators, and others to help young people build happier, healthier futures.

About the Speakers

Rebecca Collins is a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program within RAND Health. Her research examines the determinants and consequences of health risk behavior. She was principal investigator for a large national study that found associations between media use and adolescents' subsequent sexual behavior and pregnancy rates; and key investigator for a study of alcohol advertising and underage drinking. She also served on the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.

Madeline Di Nonno is the executive director for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a project of Community Partners, a nonprofit charity. The Institute—a resource for the entertainment industry, the next generation of content creators, and the public—focuses on getting more females and more positive and varied portrayals of both female and male characters into movies, TV, and other media aimed at children 11 and under. Di Nonno has more than 25 years of experience in media, marketing, and business development in the entertainment, digital media, and consumer packaged goods industries.