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TOPIC: Not Our Fault

Not Our Fault 28 Mar 2001 12:58 #19646

  • dr
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I think this article speaks for itself. Who are the real culprits here? PARENTS

MEDIA IMAGES are often blamed for kids adopting risky behaviors, but study authors Madeline Dalton and Dr. James Sargent, of the pediatrics department at Dartmouth Medical College, say their large survey of New England middle-schoolers provides the first direct evidence linking movie exposure to smoking and alcohol use in children and adolescents.
R-rated movies tend to have more smoking, drinking and other adult themes than most other films, according to Dalton.
“It’s important for parents to hear how movies could be affecting their kids’ alcohol and tobacco use,” she said.
The researchers surveyed more than 5,000 middle-school students ranging in age from 9 to 15 in 15 schools in New Hampshire and Vermont. The kids were asked about their drinking and smoking habits, movies they had seen, the types of restrictions their parents placed on their media viewing and other questions.
The results were presented here Thursday and Friday at a meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

SURVEY FINDINGS
Just over 15 percent of the kids said their parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies; 53 percent said they were allowed to watch them once in a while; and 31 percent said they had no restrictions on movies at all.
Kids whose parents allowed them to watch R-rated movies once in a while were half as likely to drink or smoke as the kids with no restrictions; and kids with total restriction were one-fifth as likely, the survey found, even after controlling for other variables such as grade, school performance, whether their friends or parents smoked, and other forms of parental supervision.

“Parents often think that what they do doesn’t make a difference, but this shows it does,” said Patrick Johnson, a fellow at the Columbia University-based National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
Dalton found one result particularly startling: “Eighth graders with complete restriction were less likely to smoke or drink than fifth graders who were allowed to watch R movies. That’s striking. It suggests maybe they won’t try it if the parents restrict their media.”
The survey also found that for every five R-rated movies the kids saw from a list of 50 popular titles, they were 1.6 times more likely to have tried smoking and 1.8 times more likely to have tried alcohol. In all, 17.5 percent had tried smoking; 23.4 percent had tried drinking alcohol.
“I was surprised by the number of kids who were allowed to watch R movies at this age,” Dalton said. “In middle school, 85 percent of kids are watching some R-rated movies. These movies model all types of adult behaviors, making them inappropriate for a lot of different reasons.”
Dalton said that because the kids weren’t tracked over time, she can’t say for sure that the media exposure caused them to pick up the habits. But she added that the researchers are currently doing a longitudinal study that so far appears to bear out these findings.
Johnson said the study’s main limitation is that there is, as with all surveys that rely on people to self-report behaviors, a potential for bias from kids over-reporting or under-reporting behaviors.
The results were part of a broad study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

SMOKING ON THE SILVER SCREEN
The researchers also measured tobacco’s actual screen time in movies the kids had reported seeing and found that the youngsters who had seen the most tobacco images were five times as likely to have used cigarettes as kids with the least exposure, prompting Sargent to call smoking in the movies, “toxic exposure.”
The researchers noted that the association was particularly strong among kids with low self-esteem, but held true across different personality types.
“Kids see a tremendous number of movies and are exposed to a tremendous amount of smoking in those movies, modeled by movie stars, people they admire,” Sargent said.
“The movie industry never had to really confront this because no one had ever scientifically shown there is a link between what movies show and what kids do, and they will have to consider this.”

He reported in the January issue of the British medical journal The Lancet that among the 250 top-grossing films from 1988 to 1997, 87 percent contained scenes of tobacco use. In 95 percent of the occurrences, there was no cue that smoking was a negative behavior.
While R-rated movies usually have more tobacco than other movies, on average eight occurrences per film versus four for PG movies, it isn’t factored into the ratings process, Dalton said.
“Maybe that should be considered now that it’s associated with addictive behaviors,” she said. “Up until now the focus has been on violence. I don’t think people are really thinking about smoking or drinking in movies and how it may be affecting their kids.”
With 430,700 American dying each year from smoking-related diseases and 4,800 kids between 11 and 17 smoking their first cigarette every day, some say the impact can’t be ignored.

“Having these hard numbers makes it real,” said Deanne Samuels, director of a teen smoking-cessation project at the Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention.
“It will make it easier to form some public health policy — to go to Congress, the movie industry, tobacco companies. It’s some proof that what they are doing is actually affecting smoking behaviors,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of America declined to comment on the findings.


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Re: Not Our Fault 29 Mar 2001 00:03 #19647

  • Avalon
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Well, I’m no scientist but it seems the primary guilty party might be, oh, say, the cigarette manufactures and alcohol distributors. But, silly me for getting right to who is to blame. It’s easier for parents to blame us.
Stuff I wanna know:
--Socio-economic backgrounds of the kids. Those blameless cigarette and beer companies target low-income areas with more advertising that just happens to NOT be on the silver screen.
--What are the percentage of kids who have a parent(s) that smoke and drink. Ask these wonderful researchers how that effects the teen use rate of these substances.
--What movies are they using as examples? What are the ratios of good guys and bad guys smoking on screen? Does this effect the data?
--What other media are these kids exposed to that have substance use messages?
Colour me cynical, but unless these issues are addressed in the report, the cigarette and alcohol people might as well have done the research. Sure takes the heat offa them.
Paul Turner
Avalon Cinema
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Re: Not Our Fault 29 Mar 2001 10:40 #19648

  • dr
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Wow! All good points and well taken. But it seems that as long as everyone keeps passing the buck there will be no true solution. I'm sure these researchers were trying to do the right thing but as you so cynically stated (not a bad thing)there are other questions that needed to be addressed.
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