Teenagers are twice as likely to engage in sexual acts if they see similar sexual behavior in the media, according to a survey by the RAND corporation.
"TV and internet are horrible. This is my personal view. I'm no expert. But, sex is glorified in television, the Internet, in music videos," said Chautauqua Family Court Judge Judith Claire.
Nielsen ratings from this past January find that teenagers watch an average of 22 hours and 24 minutes worth of television per week.
The Top Ten - a user-generated website - says the most popular television show for teenagers is ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."
The show's synopsis says, "The teens at Grant High are living life in the fast lane. Between their love triangles, secrets, drama, accusations, gossip, confusion, and scandalous rumors, there's never a dull moment. The he-said, she-said gets intense! Their parents' lives are just as complicated. From paternity questions to happy reunions and unexpected romances (past and present), there's always something going on."
Claire said she can see the link between television shows and the teenage pregnancy rate in Chautauqua County.
"Just like when people smoked cigarettes in the movies. There were always cigarettes in every movie, and then they wondered why teenagers were suddenly experiencing an increase in smoking. Well, in those days, smoking was shown as being cool, and it was always subtly there. It's the same way here," Claire said.
Kim Roque, health coordinator for Dunkirk High School, said media influences are something that she discusses with her students frequently.
"We talk about the changes in the media, and how they just glamorize sex, how they never show the consequences on TV, and how it's just become so casual. They hook up, have sex. Hook up, have sex," Roque said.
Other television shows, such as MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom," aim to give teenagers a realistic look at what it is like to have a child.
"'MTV's 16 and Pregnant' is an hour-long documentary series focusing on the controversial subject of teen pregnancy. Each episode follows a five to seven month period in the life of a teenager as she navigates the bumpy terrain of adolescence, growing pains, rebellion, and coming of age; all while dealing with being pregnant.
Each story offers a unique look into the wide variety of challenges pregnant teens face: marriage, adoption, religion, gossip, finances, rumors among the community, graduating high school, getting (or losing) a job. Faced with incredibly adult decisions, these girls are forced to sacrifice their teenage years and high school experiences," is the synopsis for "16 and Pregnant."
Meanwhile, "Teen Mom" deals with the teenagers that have already had children, and focuses on many of the same points as its counterpart.
While such shows may aim to show teens what it's like to be pregnant, Judge Claire said they can have another impact.
"Basically, if you have a baby as a teenager, you're glorified. You're a hero. And, that's another reason why teenagers have babies in Chautauqua County. Because, it does glorify them. They don't understand that those are 24/7 duties, and the fact that they're not going to be able to go out and hang out with their friends. And how can they? They're kids," Judge Claire said.