A few weeks ago Tyra Banks continued the daytime talk show tradition of parading teen girls across the stage, grilling them about their sex lives and then acting shocked when they say things like, "I'm 13 and want a baby!" or, "I'm 15 and have already slept with 20 guys."
The excuse for this latest round of gawking was to discuss the results of a sex survey that the Tyra Show had conducted. According to these results:
- On average, girls are losing their virginity at 15 years of age.
- 14 percent of teens who are having sex say they’re doing it at school.
- 52 percent of survey respondents say they do not use protection when having sex.
- One in three says she fears having a sexually transmitted disease.
- 24 percent of teens with STDssay they still have unprotected sex.
- One in five girls says she wants to be a teen mom.
- About 50 percent acknowledge that they’ve hit someone.
- One out of three teens has tried drugs.
Like Tyra, the audience seemed stunned. But I was skeptical. These numbers weren't reflected in any of the research that I have come across. For example, a study done by the well respected Kinsey Institute, found that only 25% of girls were first having sex at 15. This doesn't quite sound like the "average" Tyra claims.
Additionally, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey done by the CDC
So what's up with the discrepancies? Basically, the quality of the research is to blame. The thing that Tyra failed to highlight was that all of her survey respondents were self-selected. That means the only people who responded were either girls who watched Tyra or those who went to her website. Any researcher will tell you that Tyra's method is not a good way to get an accurate sample.
What these results tell me is not what the majority of American girls are doing. What they tell me is what the majority of Tyra watchers who bother to fill out surveys in their free time are doing.
TV talk shows love to scandalize–that's how they keep their ratings up. But is doing it at the expense of teen girls' reputations acceptable? What do you think of the Tyra study and the impression it gives about teens?
Photo provided by Stephen Lovekin