Entertainment Television as a Healthy Sex Educator

The Impact of Condom-Efficacy Information in an Episode of Friends

Published in: Pediatrics, v. 112, no. 5, Nov. 2003, p. 1115-1121

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2003

by Rebecca L. Collins, Marc N. Elliott, Sandra H. Berry, David E. Kanouse, Sarah B. Hunter

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CONTEXT: Television is often decried as a negative influence on the sexual attitudes and behavior of America's adolescents. However, television occasionally includes messages about the risks of having sex that may have a positive effect on youth. OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of condom-efficacy messages in an episode of Friends on teens. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A national sample of 506 adolescents 12 to 17 years old who had been regular viewers of Friends the previous year were surveyed by telephone shortly after the episode aired. OUTCOME MEASURES: Viewership of the Friends episode, recall of the condom-efficacy message, beliefs about condoms, self-reported change in condom knowledge, and discussions of condom efficacy with parents. RESULTS: At least 27% of the sample saw the episode, and 65% of these viewers recalled its depiction of condom failure resulting in pregnancy. Forty percent of the viewers watched with an adult. Ten percent of viewers talked to an adult about condom efficacy as a result of the show. Compared with other viewers, youth who talked with an adult were more likely to report learning about condoms from the episode and appeared less likely to reduce their perceptions of condom efficacy after the episode. CONCLUSIONS: Entertainment television can serve as a healthy sex educator and can work in conjunction with parents to improve adolescent sexual knowledge.

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