Summary by Emerald O’Brien

Emotional grooming is not limited to human relationships.  Media messages are grooming many teens and some adults.  The goal of any con game is to manipulate, persuade, or coerce someone into doing what the groomer wants.

How The Media Groom Youth (Unmasking Sexual Con Games, Chapter 3) - Love Smarts - Be "Love Smart" in a love-challenged world!How The Media Groom Youth (Unmasking Sexual Con Games, Chapter 3) - Love Smarts - Be "Love Smart" in a love-challenged world!

Many advertisers and media executives admit that they’ll do whatever it takes to get and keep your attention.  A high-ranking Abercrombie and Fitch popular pre-teen and teen clothier and magazine mogul commented to The New York Times,  “I pay little attention to the critics who feel that youth ought to be locked in boxes until they’re 50.  All I care about is the target audience and how that person is feeling at the moment.”  The 1999 holiday “Naughty and Nice” issue included nudity, descriptions of sexuality, and an interview with a porn star.  Another Christmas edition included a picture of four girls in bed with a young man holding up his boxers. Other issues have included photos of a nude female, breasts exposed, embraced behind by a naked man, and a lesbian couple kissing at their ”wedding”  (Plugged In magazine December 2001)

The AMA reports that, in one year, the average child spends about 1,500 hours in front of the television compared to 900 hours in school.  Teens are exposed to an estimated 3K ads a day and 65% of teens have a TV in their bedroom. 15K sexual references, allusions, and jokes.  Only 170 of these will deal with abstinence, birth control, STD’s or pregnancy.  According to an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, teens are learning that the pursuit of sex is relentless and exploitative.  Sex is often portrayed as nothing more than a sporting event that amounts only to innocent fun with no emotional or physical consequences.  The harmful effects of such prolonged exposure to “erotic media leads teens to:  

  • Accept the perception that “everybody’s doing it.”  
  • Lose hope in sexual exclusivity, 
  • View promiscuity as the “natural state.”  
  • View sexual inactivity as a health risk.  
  • Become cynical about love.  
  • Believe that one can achieve superior sexual pleasure without affection toward your partner.  
  • View marriage as confining.  
  • View having and raising a family as unattractive.
    (D. Zillman, Influences of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents and Young Adults’ 2000.)

Why do media and advertisers target teens? Consider these numbers:  According to the U.S. census, there are nearly 42 million 10-19-year-olds in the U.S., the largest generation ever. (https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/facts-and-stats/changing-face-of-americas-adolescents/index.html) Teens spent an estimated $105 billion and influenced their parents to spend another $48 billion.  34% of teen purchases are clothing, and another 22% approximately, $30 billion is spent on entertainment. Today’s teen population has a large amount of disposable income. 

Media conglomerates know this and purposefully target this money.  Teens literally are buying the lies. (Strassburger and Donnerstein, Children, Adolescents, and the Media; Issues and Solutions, Pediatrics Journal, 1999.)

How can we counteract Media Messages?

  • Take every opportunity to tell youth and model for them, your values and beliefs regarding the purpose of friendship dating, marriage, and sex.
  • Teach youth that the best preparation for marriage and family is learning friendship skills, how to be a good friend, and how to have healthy boundaries.
  • Pay attention to what kinds of media your youth are consuming and do your homework, listen to their music, look up song lyrics, watch their TV shows, preview videos.  Say “no” to inappropriate media.  
  • Teach youth critical thinking skills that enable them to evaluate media and compare media messages about sex, dating, and relationships to your family values.  Create opportunities to watch TV, movie, or a music video together and practice critical reviews.
  • Have teens look for and name any of the nine grooming tactics seen and discuss how these sexual con games would damage relationships in real life.  

We can help youth learn the skills they need to enable them to think critically, reflect, and reject lies about sex.  These skills will help them to create and maintain healthy friendships and good relationships.  The kind of relationships that promote respect protect innocence, value purity, and dignity.