Teen Sex on ABC Family Sparks Debate

Parents complain Secret Life situations are too risqué for kids

By Amelia Atlas,  Newser User

Posted Feb 1, 2009 7:07 AM CST

(Newser) – Edgier programming  by the Disney-owned ABC Family channel may have boosted ratings and advertising, but many parents are angry about the changes. New series, particularly The Secret Life of the American Teenager, have sparked debate about whether the offerings are truly family programming, reports the Los Angeles Times. Parents concerned about the risqué themes in the hit show claim the network has betrayed its target demographic.

"When you call something 'family,' it gives the impression that it's safe for all members of the family, even young children," said one parent. ABC executives insist the programs are simply evolving with their viewers. "The best way to resonate with your audience is to be authentic," said the president of the Disney-ABC Television Group. "You're only authentic if you are holding up a mirror to your audience and saying, 'I see you.'"

Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, poses at her office in Burbank, Calif.
Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, poses at her office in Burbank, Calif.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Actress India Eisley of Secret Life attends Disney and ABC's 'TCA-All Star Party' at the Beverly Hilton last year.
Actress India Eisley of "Secret Life" attends Disney and ABC's 'TCA-All Star Party' at the Beverly Hilton last year.   (Getty Images)
Actress Shailene Woodley from The Secret Life of the American Teenager attends the 2008 American Music Awards after-party in Los Angeles.
Actress Shailene Woodley from "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" attends the 2008 American Music Awards after-party in Los Angeles.   (Getty Images)
Shailene Woodley and Molly Ringwald, both from Secret Life, attend ABC Family's '25 Days of Christmas' winter wonderland event at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan last year.
Shailene Woodley and Molly Ringwald, both from "Secret Life," attend ABC Family's '25 Days of Christmas' winter wonderland event at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan last year.   (Getty Images)
Actor Ken Baumann arrives at the gala premiere of 'Criss Angel Believe' by Cirque du Soleil at the Luxor Resort & Casino in Las Vegas last year.
Actor Ken Baumann arrives at the gala premiere of 'Criss Angel Believe' by Cirque du Soleil at the Luxor Resort & Casino in Las Vegas last year.   (Getty Images)
Actress Megan Park, one of the stars of Secret Life attends Disney and ABC's 'TCA-All Star Party' at the Beverly Hilton last year.
Actress Megan Park, one of the stars of "Secret Life" attends Disney and ABC's 'TCA-All Star Party' at the Beverly Hilton last year.   (Getty Images)
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Scenes from "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."   (tslotatxlove)

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I'd love for these shows to be 'Little House on the Prairie,' but that isn't going to happen. Family programming is all about bringing families together to watch shows so that they can dialogue about these sensitive topics.
- Pat Gentile, ad buyer for P&G

The best way to resonate with your audience is to be authentic. And you're only authentic if you are holding up a mirror to your audience and saying, 'I see you.' - Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group

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