Socialization and Acculturation Implications of Sexual Content on YouTube

Tony R. DeMars

Texas A&M University - Commerce


New media technology over the past several years has included easy access to user generated video found on web sites like YouTube and similar sites.  Have users or those uploading content during this time followed any particular ethical code to limit access by children?  In 2010, as portable video players such as iPods become increasingly adopted, and as cell phone providers continue to add video services and improve transfer speeds, what limitations on the type of content might be expected?  Do creators of increasingly personalized, and mobile, content expect to follow similar ethical standards as mass media content producers or journalists of the past?  Are these issues important to children’s socialization?

This essay discusses the potential impact of sexually explicit content on children, using a sample of downloadable video files—the type of ‘personal media’ content currently available—and demonstrating how easily available materials are that have often been deemed socially damaging. Since popular culture’s influence on society has been debated for decades, this new form of popular culture seems equally important to include within scholarly analysis. The essay demonstrates the battle over a dominant ideology, offers a values analysis of the content sampled, and demonstrates what, if any, ethical guidelines creators and distributors of personalized media appear to follow.

The Issue of Sexual Media Content and Children

American society continues what appears to be a move toward ubiquity of personalized visual media.  The broadcast of content to an enormous audience by a limited number of TV networks gave way to the ‘narrowcast’ of content to a more specialized audience following the near universalization of cable and direct broadcast satellite television.  If the tone set by discussions and presentations at recent conventions of the National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE) is any indication, professional program producers expect mobile media and consumer selection of individual content to become the model for the future of content distribution. Observing current developments in sites like Clicker and Hulu demonstrates a surge of availability of individually-available visual media. Similar to the influence of the portable media of the 1950s and early 1960s—transistor radios—to young people’s ability to listen to rock and roll music away from parental attention, portable visual media has the potential to have similar significant cultural influences today and for the future.

These changes are important. When only a small number of content providers, such as the NBC, CBS and ABC television networks from the 1950s to the 1970s, competed for a viewing audience, the oligopoly-style level of competition allowed each to be fairly conservative overall in their prime-time programming choices.  As competition grew from the increase in cable channels and the introduction of the Fox television network, content providers began adopting a model of catching audience attention through what has been described as a more tabloid-style approach—referring to the sex and scandal style of tabloid newspapers.

Meanwhile, YouTube, Facebook and similar file sharing sites have become easily accessible in recent years, especially as penetration levels of personal computers (including new devices like iPads) and mobile and home broadband access have grown. This growth allows teens and pre-teens to easily find and engage in a variety of content, including sexual ‘performance’ and discussion, shared through digital still images and video files.  Children and youth of any age have easy access to the Internet.  Instead of requiring any type of membership or true age-confirmation, users are asked to  ‘confirm their age’ or may be told the content is not suitable for minors.  Plus, even when an actual clip might be ‘soft core’ instead of hard core, associated thumbnails and user comments are often quite explicit on YouTube and similar sites.  For example, a recent YouTube site search using the search word ‘sex’ produced such results—listed here verbatim—as: “(a) Sexy girls lesbian sex, (b) Edge & Lita SeX LiVe CeLeBrAtIoN, (c) Hot Lesbian Sex With Nadia, (d) sex xxx naked porn stripping porno sexo nude panties thong, (e) Road Trip - Kyle and Rhonda sex scene, (f) Hot Blonde Teen Sex, (g) hot asian teen girls kissing and making out (nude porn sex), (h) Extreme Sex! Really hot female teen gets it on UNCENSORED!, and (i) Finally, Youtube Allows Sex! TRUE UNCENSORED TEEN PORN!”  The last link was followed to find that the content was not actually uncensored teen porn, yet there had been almost two million views at that time, allured by the caption.

The question of why so many youth of today post sexually explicit personal media for public consumption and comment and the related potential effect on young consumers of this media in different age groups is important for society.  Yet, conservative versus liberal ideological battles are nothing new.  Further, researchers have an obligation to remain objective in such study, simply documenting activities and seeking evidence of effects.  Is the debate of this topic a question that serves as one example of the hegemonic process of negotiating a preferred ideological position, or should this be studied as a cause-and-effect media study?  How to frame and develop a study of this nature is as challenging as the topic itself.  Some readers will scoff at the concept of the need to ‘protect children’ while others will be appalled at the range of explicit sexual imagery available to children.  Studies of this nature must be only about potential harm to individuals and society as a whole, not about pushing any particular ideological position.

Does public reaction to uncensored photos show an indication of how society thinks today? If there has been a change over the past few decades, has popular culture caused this change, or simply reflected it?  Zeidler (2007) compared the scandal 24 years earlier that helped cost a Miss America her title to the contemporary nonchalant response regarding nude pictures of Disney star Vanessa Hudgeons.  Zeidler suggests Americans may be less concerned about nudity than in the past and attributes this possible trend to experts who suggest the Internet and more explicit TV are fostering this more relaxed attitude.  While some expressed outrage on Hudgeons’ MySpace page, many fans pledged support.

The way Zeidler frames the article overall seems to embrace the change. Someone posting on a media blog site regarding the story is quoted as saying, "Quit moaning and if you have any kind of decent filtering on the computer, kids aren't going to see it” (p. 1). Fordham University communication and media professor Paul Levinson is quoted in the article to lend support, adding, “We as a society are finally growing up and it's a healthy thing...I predict in the next few years, the FCC will be put in its proper place and nudity will be the norm” (p. 1).  The millions of wired youths who share private or embarrassing pictures or videos with each other daily on cell phones or social Web sites like Facebook and MySpace overall seem to have more relaxed attitudes about what they post and its potential repercussions.  Just as scholars have attempted to determine effects of sex and violence in movies, television shows and video games, study of effects within this new media environment seems warranted.

The opposite side of the debate from the relaxed attitude shown by Zeidler might be shown by the “Ten Most Challenged Books” (n.d.), also discussed by the American Library Association (2010).  The list in recent years has included “And Tango Makes Three” criticized for its for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuitability to age group, the “Gossip Girls” series, cited for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language, the “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language, and "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group. These examples contrast with the attitudes shown by Zeidler (2007) and serve as an example of a hegemonic negotiation of a preferred meaning.

What preferred meaning system do YouTube users have? There is plenty of non-sexual content on YouTube and other video file sharing sites, yet when searches are made for ‘sex,’ ‘porn,’ or other sex-based terms, scores of postings appear. While YouTube generally prohibits sexually-explicit content (pornography), users apparently learn very quickly that similar, free pornography-laden sites (e.g. YouPorn, PornoTube, and ) are just as easily accessible, and promoters learn how to use the better-known YouTube to point the curious searcher, of any age, to such other sites.

It is also important to note that there does not have to be an assumption that such sex-content availability is caused by sites like YouTube. Sexual curiosity can be assumed as a normal part of adolescence, as those who made the low-cost XO laptop computer for underprivileged children in African discovered. Shortly after the computers were made available to youngsters in Nigeria, images of nude women were found on some of the children’s laptops (Reuters, 2007). Also, the sociological and cultural concern of the research lies in the level of potentially damaging content available, not just nudity.  Meyrowitz (1985) demonstrated that television had created ‘no sense of place’ for children, no longer allowing children to go through ‘normal’ childhood stages but instead be thrust into dealing with adult issues and experiences at a young age.  Perhaps the Internet has amplified that concern even further.

Another important component of this area of research is the reality that discussions of sexual content also seem difficult for scholars. Banks (2003), who has studied issues related to sexual behavior for decades, notes that few media scholars write about sex, while at the same time the popular press is inundated with articles and analyses about sexuality in the media.  One of the challenges obviously is a serious researcher may not want to have sex-related web searches show up on the office computer and have to be explained as ‘research.’  Another limitation is the fact that the research will have to show and discuss material that some readers will find objectionable. Such factors create a conundrum: while frank sexual discussions and relaxed sexual attitudes are being portrayed in online videos by teens, demonstrating the importance of the topic, adult scholars still mostly treat it as a taboo subject. The sociological and cultural implications seem to dictate that more research needs to be published. The current special edition of this journal may be an impetus for more serious inquiry in the future.

Based on these realities and this debate, this essay began as an attempt to establish research projects addressing such issues as (a) a content analysis to reveal whether ‘adult’ content (such as that found in an R-rated movie or beyond) could easily be found and viewed as visual media files on ‘non-pornographic’ sites, (b) an ethical analysis to find evidence of content creators or distributors being sensitive to viewing by children and thus encouraging and supporting a code of ethics for visual content creators, and (c) narrative and ideological analyses to show indications of possible detrimental effects on children exposed to adult humor, language or content found in personalized visual media content and its associated viewer reaction comments.  Although the current discussion may be more directed toward YouTube and similar web sites, only YouTube content is used as examples here, because of its dominant status among file-sharing sites.

Critical studies research would investigate whether media content might cause an individual to accept or dismiss ideologies and thus engage in or avoid behaviors such beliefs may cause.  Meanwhile, quantitative researchers will recognize, in trying to show effects of media content on an audience, that there are sometimes some effects to some people in some situations, and that proving cause and effect can be difficult.  Quantitative media effects research will thus typically be limited to controllable variables over a short time period. The ultimate question of all researchers doing either a qualitative or a quantitative study about access to and interaction with sexually explicit media content is whether separating children during their formative years from so-called adult content might be sociologically and culturally significant.

Related Literature

Without going into a detailed review of mass media literature, it is important to recognize that the foundation of this research from the new media perspective is mostly nothing new.  From research into the effects of movie content on youth in the 1920s to significant television effects research in the 1960s, and from various book banning debates to content labeling initiatives for music and for video games, social activists and scholars have argued about, investigated and assumed effects and relationships between media use and society. Thus, although this is a study based on the new, digital media, it relates in many ways to previous media and society research.

Sexual Discourse in the Media

Banks (2003) makes an important point about the current research: a comprehensive review of literature of the field of sex and the media is prohibitive, since the topic has been covered across so many different disciplines, from cultural studies to sociology to biology. The studies reviewed here therefore represent but do not include all of the variety of sex-related media studies research.

Related to sex and media issues, Attwood (2006) sought to establish a foundation for studying the sexualized culture described in the investigation as having emerged in recent years.  Attwood refers to a breakdown of rules regarding acceptable sexual behavior and preoccupations with sexual values and describes recent major directions of thought by scholars writing on sexual discourse and sexuality. Yet, despite Attwood’s assertion that the sexual culture of today is uniquely new, Levine (2007) posits that television as far back as the 1970s “left a legacy for the way American culture would discuss, depict and define sex for years to come” (p. 3).

McKee (2007) suggests little research has been conducted regarding effects of pornography on consumers. McKee’s survey of 1023 consumers of pornography suggested that some positive effects of pornography included people being less repressed and more open-minded about sex.  Common negative effects found included concerns that pornography led consumers to objectify people, caused them to have unrealistic sexual expectations, caused relationship problems and led to addiction. While the current research is not about pornography, clearly these findings are still important and related to the current discussion.

In a different scope of inquiry, Keller and Brown (2002) suggested mass media could be useful for teaching sex education topics to young people.  The researchers support the assumptions of the influences of popular culture—saying it can be used to reach youth on their level in their language—and going so far as to say that media can change the way people feel about sex and can make safe sex seem more attractive. While the focus of this study is not about detrimental effects from exposure to sexually frank or explicit content, the underlying assumption clearly suggests young people learn about sex and what are accepted as normal behavior through media messages.

Nice (2007) sought to document the “tabloidization” of teenage magazines. Using content analysis and interviews with magazine editors and publishers, Nice found important editorial changes, including increasingly “sensational” sex stories. Although the investigation focused on whether or not the changes could save teen magazines or lead to their demise, it also showed how magazines have adjusted to relaxed sexual attitude narratives found in other media.

Related Literature: The Relationship of Blogs

While blogging is a different activity than studied here, some of the discussions about the ethics of blogging are relevant to the current inquiry. In particular, most of the visual user generated content on web sites like YouTube allows viewers to post comments, and these comment streams have a similarity in their relationship to blog sites’ postings and comments. Thus, discussions of blog ethics should be considered when studying visual content posts and their viewers’ comments, especially in terms of debate regarding following any particular codes of ethics related to protecting children or others.

A few researchers have questioned whether or not ‘non-journalist bloggers’ would be inclined to follow ethics codes.  Zibluk (2006), discussing digital photojournalism education and training, found web sites that offered ethical guidelines as well as discussion forums, training and similar resources for college graduates. So far, however, the popular and industry press has discussed blogger ethics more than researchers. Beeson (2005) refers to bloggers using the analogy of cowboys on the frontier, saying the blogosphere is full of mavericks who do not think before they write.  While other bloggers have pushed for a code of ethics in blogging, much like those found at Cyberjournalist (n.d.), establishing such codes has not been well-received by the mavericks who are online often because of the strict guidelines of traditional media.  Beeson (2005) cites long-time blogger Rebecca Blood (, n.d.), whose Weblog Handbook dedicated an entire chapter to blogging ethics, but who disagrees with a formalized code of ethics for bloggers.  Blood points out that most bloggers are not journalists and should not be held to professional journalists' standards.

Leo (2005) compares traditional media ethics to expectations of bloggers, citing the work of political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald DeMaio, who suggest newsrooms have been partisan in the debate over religion and politics for many years.  These news organizations often imply bloggers report inaccurate information and fail to develop good news sources, yet it is often the blogosphere that calls into question the accuracy of content in the mainstream media.  Such was the case when Seelye, Steinberg and Gallagher  (2005) demonstrated the influence of bloggers on the resignation of CBS anchor Dan Rather or when bloggers led ABC News to sexually explicit messages from Congressman Mark Foley to underage congressional pages, as described on the ABC News web site, and leading to Foley’s resignation (Foley Resigns, 2006). A review of such industry codes of ethics as found from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA, n.d.) or the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA, n.d.) is useful for making comparisons between ‘traditional media’ ethics models to those of ‘new media.’   Further, as Levy (2004) notes,

“there's a new force--spearheaded by people who work for no bosses and whose prose never sees an editor's pencil--that provides the water-cooler fodder for the larger high-tech community. Its power extends not only to high-tech cool-hunting but also to what's politically correct, geek style...And the significance of this phenomenon has some important implications for the way opinions will be formed in the decentralized world of Internet media...consider the tech bloggers who make up the A-list. No one hired them. No one appointed them. All you need to start your own Weblog is some cheap software tools and something to say. Out of the inchoate chatter of the Web, the sharpest voices simply emerge” (p. E16).

The current article, however, is not about ethics issues of ‘professional journalists.’  Since it is ultimately a discussion of whether or not society as a whole should be concerned or not about later repercussions of the increasing availability of sexually explicit material to children, the main question at hand is the level of ethical limitations followed by those who create and distribute media content on their own, without the benefit of an organization or professional society to help guide their decisions regarding what to say or what to publish.  An ethical analysis, applying various ethical theories would be another work unto itself.

Some Examples: YouTube Content

The following discussion summarizes a small number of YouTube videos to demonstrate the point of what is available to anyone. This evidence is clearly anecdotal, not a representative sample, but indicates the kind of sexual content found on YouTube, both in the user generated video content as well as in the user comments.  These particular samples are used because they show teenagers posting sexually explicit content.  Explicit content descriptions and user comments have been mostly omitted in this article, so to get the full impact of the message a user would get, an interested reader should navigate closer through those parts of YouTube.  Readers interested in exploring what any curious child would see with a few mouse clicks should follow a few of the links within YouTube themselves to see how quickly sexual titillation becomes graphic sexual content.  What is demonstrated here is of course the very same content an eight-year-old would hear and see when viewing this YouTube content, unless the site’s ‘safety mode’ has ben activated. Links are provided; however, some videos may longer be available on YouTube.  (Back-up copy links are provided as available.)

In Video Sample One (, that as of September 2010 had over seven million hits, a girl of approximately thirteen to fifteen years old carries on a monologue where she appears to be sitting with her knees bent and feet in front of her, but in reality another girl’s legs are in front of her and move in reaction to her comments.  Her dialogue includes discussing seeing a ‘really hot guy named David,’ where she pushes the knees apart and says what sounds like ‘shoot my vagina right now, I want you so bad’ and then later, as she puts a foot behind her head says ‘oh look I can suck my own pussy too.’ In addition to many comments about the video that also use explicit language, many of the ‘comments’ connected to this video provide URLs for pornographic web sites.

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In Video Sample Two ( a teen or young adult male (visible occasionally when leaning into the camera shot) holds a naked, headless Barbie doll along with a clown doll in front of the camera and does character voices for the doll and clown. The ‘puppeteer’ describes the sexual relationship between the two, mimics sexual activity between the dolls, and at one point has the clown say very specific, graphic sexual language to Barbie.  Again, the standard, graphic viewer comments follow, but also what shows up along the right column of the screen in videos like this is a list of ‘Suggestions.’ Within this list in September 2010, was a link to Hidden Camera Sex Tape, with over eight million views at that time.  Also in the list of suggestions: Nudity: No Big Deal in Norway, with a suggestive thumbnail, Valentine’s Day Surprise, accompanied by this image...

Girls in Tub 

...and, Leaked Sex Tape, with over nine million views.  The video related to this link, as is often the case, is actually a humorous, sex-focused short film, not an actual sex-content video.  Other titles in the list included Hardcore Porn Clips, Shocking Madonna and A-Rod Tape Sex, How to Have Sex in the Office and Not Get Caught, and Sarah Palin Sex Tape UNCENSORED.  Again, these samples all come from YouTube.

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Video Sample Three ( has an animated doll lip-synching, along with a related video (below) that has two girls, who each appear to be about sixteen to eighteen years old, lip-synching to a song called Do I Look Like a Slut that was a dance club hit in recent years for the group Avenue D.  The lyrics of the song include the chorus “do I look like a slut?  Is it the way my clothes are cut?  Is it the way I move my butt?  I don’t give a fuck.”  The lyrics continue as characters in the song refer to a guy who called one of them a slut by saying to him, “I’m not a fucking slut you fucking cocksucker, your mom’s the one lettin’ everyone fuck her. Everybody knows she’s a fucking ho, sucks dick on the corner for a little blow.”

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Sample Four ( has two young teen girls doing a Wayne’s World-type ‘show’ where they address the camera while Do I Look Like a Slut plays in the background.  Their voiced comments include “what a fucking slut,” “I also fornicated this morning,” and (apparently in reference to semen) “it tasted like apple juice.” In 2010 this video has been removed by the user, but a copy of it is available below.

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Acculturation Implications of Media Narratives

Industry figures and scholarly research frequently demonstrate that children spend a significant amount of time with visual media, with most of that research in the past being based on television viewing.  Current industry practices and research show a continued decline in viewing of traditional, broadcast-based, visual media and an increase in the use of personalized media, such as that found on iPods and similar devices as well as YouTube and similar web sites.  As an example, on YouTube, a recent check of ‘views-counts’ of the ten highest viewed videos, each of the videos usually exceed one million views.

Past research has often questioned the potential related effect film, radio, television, or video game content may have on individuals. Using sexually-liberal behavior in a YouTube video narrative and judging it from a critical perspective, research would likely confirm that the behavior was more frequently punished within the media narratives, such as television, in the past, but appears to be increasingly rewarded as appropriate and normal in YouTube videos. If viewers perceive certain behaviors as acceptable based on the way they are rewarded or punished in the text, they may adopt those behaviors (Berger, 1992; Burke, 1966; Hodge & Tripp, 1986; Luke, 1990).  This essay primarily questions the potential of new media content to create a dominant reality of liberal social values, particularly sexuality, in the minds of children.  A thorough research study could provide evidence of whether this is true and potentially harmful.

Researchers must acknowledge that societal changes are more than the result of interaction with media narratives, however.  The dominant ideological view in American society in the early days of television is generally acknowledged as dominated by more conservative attitudes and behaviors than are present in new media today. But, what influence do changing family roles play? When investigating changing attitudes regarding child rearing and parental authority, Elder (1980) found an emphasis toward equality among family members in contemporary family relationships, compared to an authoritarian, patriarchal family structure of the past.  Such changes as husband dominance to wife influence, the increase in working wives, and the changes in fathers' work environments have altered the family power structure from coercive to more subtle methods of influence, giving children and teens in American families more individual power and freedom of choice.  Cochran’s (1985) review of literature from 1865 to 1929 found that parents were encouraged to teach children to be reverent toward God and to know right from wrong. Cochran notes, however, that as the 20th century progressed, parents were increasingly being advised to be friends with their children rather than disciplinarians.

Critics concerned about the ‘dumbing down’ of modern cultural values often suggest certain basic values must exist in even the smallest of societies to assure survival of the culture. These basic values, often drawn from various religious traditions, demand certain behavioral controls.  Chief among them is restraint of sexual urges and public expressions.  But again, the intent here is not to evaluate this angle of the topic deeper, but rather to acknowledge other factors beyond media effects as reasons for societal changes.

Critical research would note that, in relation to the arguments about adolescent behaviors, a hegemonic battle is being negotiated regarding what constitutes appropriate sexual discourse and behavior in modern society.  Observation of interactions in society and in the cultural products of the society, as exemplified by YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and similar web sites, reveals many instances in which children and teens do not follow the assumed standards for decency thought to have been more common in the past.  There appears to be at least a perception, if not a reality, of dominant ideological values of politeness and respect in American society portrayed in media content that is considered not as present in contemporary society, and that change is being portrayed in new media narratives.  If, as Fiske (1987) suggests, television works "ideologically to promote and prefer certain meanings of the world, to circulate some meanings rather than others, and to serve some social interests better than others" (p. 20), does the type of interaction represented by the YouTube samples in this study represent a preferred meaning that children are increasingly adopting as normal and natural?  Meyrowitz (1985) suggested that as changes occurred in society, television programs attempted to match those changes, apparently in accordance with the preferred meaning expected by the television audience.  As producers attempt to match their programs to societal changes, viewers find an increasing opportunity to observe and possibly incorporate challenges to previously held ideologies. Can this same framework proposed by Meyrowitz as applicable to television be applied to user generated content found on YouTube?

In this YouTube video, Tyra Banks is interviewed on NBC’s The Today Show as a follow up to one of her talk shows that focused on ‘the teen sex epidemic.’  The one episode discussed was part of a series of episodes related to a study conducted by the Tyra Banks Show on teen-age sexual activity (YouTube, n.d.).  Banks reports in the interview that their study showed American girls lose their virginity at an average age of 15 years old, 14% of those responding reported having sex at school, 20% reported wanting to be a teen-age mother, over 50% reported having unprotected sex, and 46% of the respondents said they lost their virginity because they felt ready.  Banks also says that many of the respondents in the anonymous survey were citing content from popular culture as their reason for their interest in sex.


To summarize the concepts stated above, using terminology from a critical perspective, an ideological and narrative analysis of the content would recognize that the message presented by the YouTube content demonstrates preferred meanings, which might be rewarded as appropriate and embraced by users’ comments or punished as inappropriate and thus minimized. The assumption of a critical analysis would be that if viewers perceive certain behaviors as acceptable based on the way they are rewarded or punished in the text – the text in this case includes the original video posted by a user and the other users’ comments – they may adopt those behaviors and accept them as normal and natural. This ultimately fits into the concept of hegemony, in which members of the social structure negotiate a preferred position. In this debate between a more liberal or conservative sexual values system, users who post videos and other users who comment on these videos participate in negotiating the preferred meaning. Users construct meaning from the videos they watch, and producers must create narratives which meet viewers' expectations of the medium.  The visual content combined with the ‘blog’ reactions create a preferred meaning.

Is ‘adult’ content (such as that found in an R-rated movie or beyond) easily found and viewed as visual media files on ‘non-pornographic’ sites?  Initial evidence shows sites like YouTube have a large quantity of so-called soft core pornographic content and sexually explicit language and that users are frequently also pointed to sites that show explicit sexual acts and which are easily accessed by anyone—sites like YouPorn, PornoTube and Flurl—that make little effort to block access to content by minors. This initial investigation revealed a much greater availability of sexually explicit content than expected.  One good line of research might investigate how aware parents are of the easy access to graphic sexual content by their children but also look for a correlation between parents’ attitudes and the level of societal concern for this easy access.

This essay also sought to find indications of efforts to be sensitive to viewing by children and the related encouragement and support of a code of ethics for visual content creators.  There is some evidence as shown by the literature that some online content creators are interested in codes of ethics and believe there is a need for ethical guidelines to be followed.  However, a search for sexually explicit discussions and content demonstrates that the majority of content creators make no effort to be sensitive to any kind of age-appropriate controls. The anecdotal evidence points to an indication that creators believe there is no need to limit content based on a general audience and an indifference to who might be consuming the content. This characteristic is not limited to sexual sensitivity. One video not summarized above that was reviewed showed a TV reporter falling from a platform and being seriously injured.  The comments were almost universally heartless and hateful, like ‘serves the bitch right, she ought to just die.’ A future research project thus could investigate reasons for the level of desensitization that appears to have developed through online video exposure.

The final question the essay sought to explore was ‘Will there be indications of possible detrimental effects on children exposed to adult humor, language or content found in personalized visual media content and its associated viewer reaction comments?’  A critical study might suggest harmful effects may be occurring, but just as decades of studies of sex and violence in the media have been inconclusive and contradictory, there has been no preponderance of proof provided from either perspective.  The examples used for this essay only suggest there is a need for further study.

Overall, the assumption from the evidence discussed is that children are being exposed to content that may be changing their view of the world, their attitudes toward others, and their attitudes toward what some might call healthy sexual behavior.  In a time where educators discuss the difficulties of teaching ‘the millennial generation,’ some critical study should be focused on the dominant ideologies of social behavior the teens of today embrace, while also looking at the role adults play in negotiating those preferred meanings. It seems clear that dominant ideological views have shifted. The question that is most important is ‘what effect is this having on societal quality and harmony?’  Those interested in this line of research should seek to find better evidence of harm, if, in fact, harmful influences come from the current level of availability of sexually explicit language and behavior in new media.


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Tony R. DeMars (Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi) is Associate Professor and Radio-Television Division Director at Texas A&M University-Commerce. His teaching areas include broadcast journalism and new media technologies and publications include the book chapter “News Convergence Arrangements in Smaller Media Markets,” in Understanding Media Convergence: The State of the Field. He is Council of Divisions Vice Chair in The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, past-President of the Texas Association of Broadcast Educators and current board member of the Texas Association of Broadcasters.


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