Saturday, May 8, 2010

Exposure to Drinking in Film, Television Linked to Early Drinking by Children

The Vancouver Sun
Children who watch R-rated movies are more likely to start drinking early on, results of a new study suggest.

The study, from Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, surveyed nearly 3,600 middle school-aged children. The researchers found that of children whose parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies, only three per cent had started drinking when questioned a couple of years after the initial survey. For children whose parents "sometimes" let them see R-rated films, 19 per cent had started drinking. For children who were allowed to watch R-rated films "all the time," 25 per cent had started drinking.

The study's findings, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, stress the need for parents to monitor their child's media exposure, said James Sargent, principal investigator of the study and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School.

Sargent said there are two effects of watching R-rated movies that leads to children drinking alcohol earlier in life.

"Part of it is monkey see, monkey do," he said. "Kids see actors smoking and drinking on screen and think, 'Oh, I'd like to do that.'"

At the same time, risky behaviours portrayed in R-rated movies, such as crime, violence and sexuality, tend to "go together," he said.

Once kids start one risky behaviour, such as smoking or sex, they're likely to start another, drinking for example, Sargent explained.

This can be damaging to their health, as early-onset alcohol use is associated with alcoholism later on in life, Sargent said.

Middle-school aged children are also likely to binge drink in high school, leading to such problems as "school failure, trouble with the law, and drinking and driving," he explained.

Keeping in mind that some parents who restrict access to R-rated movies could simply be more careful and more likely to ensure kids don't have access to alcohol in the home, the researchers also asked the children questions to gauge their parents' parenting style. However, even with these factors considered, exposure to R-rated movies was still linked to the likelihood of early-onset alcohol use.

Most worrying, Sargent said, some "authoritative parents still let their kids watch anything."

Monitoring a child's media consumption is as important in parenting as "paying attention to what your kids eat and making sure they do their homework," he said.

While the message to parents in the past was "don't let your kids watch too much TV, the big message (in this study) is that you can also influence your child's behaviour by controlling content," said Sargent.

For Canadian parents, Sargent recommends they take movie ratings "very seriously and literally."

"If a movie is rated for adults, kids have no business watching them," he said.

Sargent pointed out that many PG-13 movies and TV shows also portray drinking and other adult situations. Therefore, he urged parents to not only restrict their kids from seeing R-rated films, but also to limit time spent watching television overall.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends parents limit children's daily TV watching to one or two hours a day.

No comments:

Post a Comment