• Lewd by Example: New Research Finds Prime-Time Adult TV Characters Routinely Use Explicit Sexual Dialogue in Front of Child Characters

    by  • September 8, 2018 • Advertiser Accountability, Broadcast Decency, Studies • 5 Comments


    New research by the Parents Television Council reveals a disturbing trend occurring in prime-time broadcast family comedies – adult characters (parents and teachers) are increasingly making explicit references to sex in front of child characters.The PTC’s new study, “Lewd By Example,” found that over 80% of all prime-time broadcast network family comedies contained instances of adults using explicit sexual dialogue in front of children. The worst example in this study is NBC’s A.P. Bio, which features a disgruntled school teacher discussing his sex life, or using other sexual dialogue inappropriate for children, in front of his classroom in nearly every episode.

    Watch content examples from the study below.

    “When it comes to airing sexually charged dialogue in front of children, the broadcast television networks eagerly appear to be saying ‘me too’ when they could be saying ‘#metoo.’ According to new PTC research, over 80 percent of the ‘family comedies’ on prime-time broadcast TV include adult characters using sexually explicit dialogue in front of child characters — this coming at a time when our nation is grappling with a crisis of inappropriate sexual provocation. Furthermore, the networks are marketing this alarming content trend as being appropriate for children to watch,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

    “Our study reveals a fundamental problem with the way TV shows are rated. Each TV network assigns its own ratings, and oversight of the system is then handed to a group of the very same network executives who routinely rate programs inaccurately. It’s a dirty secret that the networks would lose advertising revenue by rating content accurately, because most mainstream corporations won’t sponsor programming rated TV-MA. The TV Content Ratings System needs to be reviewed by the regulatory authorities and entirely overhauled.

    “Decades of scientific research has concluded that children and teens are profoundly influenced by what they see and hear on television. Yet today, primetime television places young characters directly in the midst of sexually-charged dialogue, and that content is marketed as appropriate for children to watch. The system that is supposed to ‘protect’ children by giving parents control over explicit, age-inappropriate content is an abject failure.”


    Prime-time broadcast network programs on the five major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and the CW) were digitally recorded. Using the Parents Television Council’s proprietary Entertainment Tracking System software, PTC analysts documented and analyzed each instance of adults using sexual dialogue during family-themed prime-time broadcast network programming in which children play a significant role, during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 season “sweeps” periods (November 2016, February 2017, May 2017 and November 2017, February 2018, May 2018). Surveyed were a total of 332 episodes of family-themed situation comedies, for 184 hours of programming.


    Prime-time broadcast network situation comedies (“sitcoms”) analyzed for the study included:

    ABCLast Man Standing, Dr. Ken, The Middle, American
    Housewife, Fresh Off the Boat, The Real O’Neals, The Goldbergs, Speechless,
    Modern Family, Black-ish, Splitting Up Together, Roseanne

    CBS – Man With a Plan, Kevin Can Wait, Life in Pieces, Mom,
    Young Sheldon Fox – The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, Son of Zorn, The
    Mick, L.A. to Vegas

    NBC – This Is Us, Champions, A.P. Bio

    CW – Jane the Virgin

    This study found:

    • Over 80% (81.5%) of all prime-time broadcast network “family comedies” analyzed for this study contained instances of adults using explicit sexual dialogue in front of children.
    • All the Fox and NBC “family comedies” reviewed in this study contained instances of adults using sexual dialogue in front of children.
    • On the Disney-owned ABC network, 75% of “family comedies” contained such dialogue.
    • On CBS, more than half (60%) of “family comedies” did.
    • All of CBS’ “family comedies” were rated TV-PG; 83% included a “D” descriptor designating sexual dialogue.
    • On ABC, 80% of the network’s “family comedies” containing sex talk in front of kids were rated TV-PG, and over half of them (60%) lacked the “D” descriptor designating sexual dialogue.
    • Fox and NBC were more responsible about rating content appropriately: on NBC, 68% of “family comedies” were rated TV-14, and 85% had the “D” descriptor; and 75% of Fox “family comedies” were rated TV-14 and contained a “D” descriptor.
    • NBC’s A.P. Bio contained the most instances of adult sexual dialogue in front of children. Next worst, in order, were: The Mick (Fox), American Housewife (ABC), Life in Pieces (CBS), and Family Guy (Fox).

    To read the full study, please visit



    5 Responses to Lewd by Example: New Research Finds Prime-Time Adult TV Characters Routinely Use Explicit Sexual Dialogue in Front of Child Characters

    1. Gabe
      September 12, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      Instead of complaining about TV shows, why not do your job as a parent and not let your young children watch TV-14 shows! The current rating system works good enough as long as you use the V-Chip and/or parental controls. If your kids are unintentionally exposed to TV-14 shows, then you have an additional responsibility to teach your kids about the real world. If you don’t feel like they are ready learn about this content,then you as a parent, needs to a better job regulating your child(ren)’s media content. Bottom line: Good Parenting>Media Content

      • Phillip
        September 14, 2018 at 9:25 am

        Go away Gabe, you know nothing about TV, and plus, the PTC does not tell us how to parent, they are trying to help us!

        • Jonathan
          September 17, 2018 at 10:09 am

          Yeah because you know so much about TV Phillip. Maybe you should be the one to go away since you can’t engage in a conversation with anyone. You just tell people to go away and insult anyone who disagrees with this group.

      • Susan
        December 21, 2018 at 4:23 pm

        That’s exactly the problem. Tv shows that should be rated 14 or above often aren’t so even paying attention to the ratings could expose your children to inappropriate content.

    2. September 11, 2018 at 12:03 am

      This is a rather eye-opening study! Looks like this is the new norm for television.

      I just want to point out that This Is Us is a drama, not a comedy.

    Leave a Reply to Georgi Malchov Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *