An interesting, relatively recent research report discusses the impact of media exposure and media preferences on sexual attitudes and gender stereotypes of Dutch teenagers. It is agreed among researchers that television for youth portray highly stereotyped male and female behaviours and roles and are especially sexualized. Research has generally shown that greater exposure to the media is related to adolescent boys and girls endorsing stereotypical male and female expectations, something that reduces personal choice in social situations.
This new study provides a new angle: Media Exposure refers to the amount of time teenagers spend watching TV, movies, etc., whereas Media Preferences refers to how much they like certain types of TV shows, music, Internet sites, etc. Here we have some heartening news.
Teenage girls who preferred news and informative programmes on TV and Internet and classic music, rock and heavy metal maintained a lower degree of gender stereotyping than girls who preferred soap operas, romantic movies and punk music. Teenage boys who preferred erotica and sports on TV and the Internet and punk music more highly agreed with gender stereotyped attitudes.
Therefore, the important factor is not how much exposure teenagers experience to the media but, rather, what they prefer to see or follow. Here, I think family environment is important. In families that read a lot, children are more likely to read. In families that watch reality TV or soap operas, children follow suit. In families that listen to classical music and watch the History Channel, the children will have absorbed those values. That does not mean that there will not be a period of time during which adolescents want to be "like everyone else" and watch the latest shows that their peers talk about in school or hear the latest music; but it may not be what they actually prefer when they are alone.