According to the Center for Scholars & Storytellers' "Teens & Screens 2023" report, 51.5% of adolescents want to see more cinematic content focused on friendships or feel-good "nomance" character relationships.
That is a pleasant surprise for the Parents Television Council's (PTC) Melissa Henson, a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the impact of entertainment media on children and American culture at large.
"Teenagers have very little interest in the sexual content that Hollywood keeps trying to foist on them," she relays. "They would really much rather see stories about friendship, about platonic relationships."
The survey suggests that teens are longing to form more substantive connections in their lives – an art Henson says was lost during the pandemic.
"There seems to be some speculation that kids are really kind of floundering in this post-COVID world," she notes. "A lot of them have forgotten how to connect with their peers, and they're looking to media for sort of an instruction."
Screens seemed to be everywhere during COVID. They were used for school, for personal interactions, and even church. But young people are discovering that screen time is not the same as relationships in the real world (IRW).
"Part of it is also informed by the online dating app phenomenon and how a lot of these dating apps kind of skip over building relationships," Henson adds. "They end up becoming one-night stands or just for hookups rather than actually getting to know a person."
In its second year, the survey reached 1,500 adolescents from ages 10 to 24 and found shifts from last year in terms of the topics that adolescents care about most. Researchers were also able to show how these views varied by age and demographic information.
Meanwhile, adolescents of all ages still find TikTok to be the most relatable media platform.