A new study shows that children and teens may be more influenced by what they see in movies than by what they’re taught by parents, a new study shows. The study, conducted by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, was published on the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open site this week. The study may warrant considering placing restrictions on alcohol placement in movies.
The study found that children who watch movies with drinking scenes are more than twice as likely to try alcohol, and the rate actually tripled for teens who moved on to binge drinking, as compared to children who watch relatively few movies.
We’re not talking tiny percentages here, either. Over the two-year course of the study, the number of movie-watching teenagers who had started drinking rose from 11 percent to 25 percent. The number of teens who began binge drinking rose from 4 percent to 13 percent.
“The effect of movie exposure … derives from the fact that alcohol use in movies is typically modelled in positive situations, without negative effects, and often shown with alcohol brands, which consolidates both the adolescent’s identity as a drinker and brand allegiance,” the study argues.
The study is particularly concerning because while cigarette product placement is banned in U.S. movies, alcohol product placement is not, regardless of film rating. In fact, alcohol use is not even included as a factor in the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system.
“It’s really not incorporated into the ratings at all,” study author James Sargent says. “There’s just as much in PG-13 movies as there is in R movies.”
The study looked only at the effects of alcohol use and alcohol product placement in movies, and did not factor in the repeated exposure kids have to advertisements on the Internet, in print, and on television.
The study also brings up concerns about alcohol product placement on both a national and global level. The study found that half of all Hollywood films, regardless of film rating, contained at least one alcohol brand appearance. Additionally, more than half of the revenues for Hollywood movies comes from overseas, meaning that movies with alcohol placement are affecting adolescents everywhere they are distributed.
How can parents and clinicians battle the effects of alcohol marketing and product placement? The study authors offered these suggestions:
- Parental restriction on certain types of media, for example, R-rated movies, which contain high levels of drinking (90%) and brand placement (61%). Parental movie restrictions have been associated with lower risk for alcohol and tobacco use, and parental media management merits greater emphasis by clinicians and intervention researchers.
- Parents should not allow alcohol-branded merchandise in their homes; this type of alcohol marketing seems particularly problematic because adolescents become promotional vehicles as they wear their merchandise in schools and other public places, another point clinicians can make when discussing substance use prevention in office visits.
- Parents may limit onset of alcohol use by being responsive and setting limits, by promoting extracurricular involvement, by keeping home alcohol in a secure location or by not drinking frequently themselves.
What kinds of restrictions do you place on what your kids can watch? And do you think alcohol product placement should be banned in movies?
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