The amount of sex and nudity on our screens has been labelled as 'pervasive' by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) who have cautioned that it may be having a harmful effect on children.

Their findings come at the conclusion of a literature review that looked at local and international studies on the impact of onscreen sex and nudity on young people.

They found that a large number of studies concluded that exposure to this adult-orientated material was having an impact on the attitudes and behaviours of kids.

Some of the findings are alarming. They concluded that exposure to sexual media can affect "attitudes to sexual behaviour," and can also negatively impact their views on an "appropriate body image". These in turn led to risky behaviours around sex, such as more frequent casual sex and having sex earlier.

Advertisement

The BSA also found that exposure to pornographic images had a negative effect on children and that exposure to sexual media had a normalising effect, shaping attitudes and perceptions of "sexual reality".

Another key finding was the role culture played. The BSA learned that children of different cultures were impacted differently and were influenced in their attitudes and behaviours to sex and nudity by role models on TV and other media who were similar in gender and ethnicity.

But it wasn't all cuase for concern. The BSA also found some positives around sex and nudity on screen. In an educational context nudity can benefit sexual education and nudity in an "artistic context" can help "reframe" nudity towards a sex-positive conversation.

But more than television/media role models or sexual media children were more likely to take their cues from their parents and peers. The BSA concluded that parental-adolescent conflict would have more impact on their children's sexual activity and attitude than media.

To that end their study found that researches recommended parents and educators be "less reactive and risk focused" when it came to sexual content and media and instead use positive strategies that acknowledges the pervasive nature of sexual media.

"The research reflects that nudity and sexual media content is a pervasive part of the content landscape," said BSA Chief Executive, Belinda Moffat in a statement. "It is part of a body of content that may inform and entertain, but it also has the potential to harm children and young people. Our focus is to engage with and educate broadcasters and the public, particularly parents and caregivers, to ensure that these harms may be mitigated. "

Some strategies and actions determined by the BSA in their research include broadcasters ensuring media content that includes nudity or sexual endeavours be properly classified and be preceded with appropriate warnings on the nature of the content and parents or caregivers taking a more active role in overseeing what their children are watching and, where appropriate, using tools that allow them to manage and restrict such content, such as parental locks.