Literature Review: Impacts On Children And Young People Of Exposure To Nudity On Television And Other Media, 2019

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Date published: July 2019

Researchers: The Collaborative for Research and Training in Youth Health and Development (The Collaborative Trust)



The BSA commissioned research to explore how depictions of nudity in different on screen scenarios may impact or harm children and young people.  The BSA wanted to know what potential harms arise, and how broadcasters, the BSA and parents/caregivers can mitigate such harms and support youth as they navigate the pervasive media environment.


Key insights from the research include:

  • There are limited studies about the impacts of nudity on television and most studies focus on the impacts of sexual media content on other forms of media.
  • Empirical literature is divided as to whether exposure to nudity and sexualised media content harms children and young people.
  • Seeing nudity is less likely to cause harm in some scenarios (eg nudity presented in educational/medical context, nudity viewed in supportive environment where it can be explained).
  • There are many studies which conclude that:
    • Exposure to sexual media content can affect children’s attitudes (towards sexual behaviour and appropriate body image) and increase sexual risk taking (eg early sexual activity, multiple partners)
    • Exposure to pornographic images (ie content with the purpose of sexual arousal) has negative effects for children.
  • Children from different cultures can be impacted differently. Children’s attitudes and behaviours about nudity/sex are influenced by role models from media/TV who are similar in ethnicity/gender.
  • Key changes to the brain occur around puberty. Connected families/whanau and communities/schools are important to healthy development and serve a critical role in offering education which enables children to view information critically and use it positively.
  • Parents/caregivers can help by openly discussing such content and emphasising the positive aspects of sexuality, ensuring they understand their children’s experiences with media and using appropriate monitoring, filters and restrictions around media use.



The BSA has identified a number of actions that broadcasters, parents/caregivers and the BSA (and other agencies) can take to respond to these findings.  These are focused around use of effective warnings and classifications by broadcasters, parents and caregivers managing content and supporting young people as they navigate a pervasive media world, and agencies such as the BSA raising awareness and supporting education about managing and understanding content. Further detail is available in the research report and research summary above.