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'R' Movies Linked to Middle-School Boozing?

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Are you against R-rated movies for your kiddies? Perhaps you should be.

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Recently, my almost-12-year-old has been begging to see the movie "Shutter Island." She loves suspense and already seems to be growing out of the vampire thrillers that have so many girls her age addicted. I have a problem with this, because "Shutter Island" has an "R" rating. But she's trying the "all my friends have seen it" argument -- the one I perfected myself in the late 1970s. So far, I haven't budged.

Most parents agree that the violence and sexual content in R-rated movies is inappropriate for impressionable young children who are developing their sense of self. Less clear to many parents is where we should draw the line with middle-schoolers, whose exposure to all kinds of media is certainly more advanced than that of their parents' generation. Now a new study will help confused parents toe the line. It found that R-rated movies increase the likelihood of underage children using alcohol.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, followed more than 6,000 adolescents (aged 10 to 14) over a two-year period. The children were asked to choose movies they had seen from a list that included movies rated "G," "PG-13" and "R." On a separate occasion, they were asked if they'd ever tried alcohol without their parents knowing. The study found that watching R-rated movies affected the level of sensation-seeking (the desire for risky behavior) among adolescents. "It showed that R-rated movies not only contain scenes of alcohol use that prompt adolescents to drink, they also jack up the sensation-seeking tendency, which makes adolescents more prone to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors," said the author of the study.

Perhaps the most fascinating finding was that kids who are prone to try risky behaviors anyway weren't affected a whole lot by exposure to R-rated movies. But kids who are "low sensation-seekers" (less likely to try risky behaviors) were greatly affected by the movie-watching. In fact, they behaved exactly like their daredevil counterparts after seeing R-rated movies! Clearly, those ratings are there for a reason. "Shutter Island" has now been officially struck off my list. No way. No how.



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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
LindsayDianne April 7, 2010, 7:11 AM

Movies with violence in them are a SERIOUS no-no for me. As for nudity, depending on what type, how long, subject matter and age of child… I’d rather have my youngster see nudity (something that we all are, from time to time) and sex (something that we all, or most of us, also do from time to time) than violence. Violence is NOT something that we all do. It’s not something that we have to get used to or see.
R Rated movies are rated R for a reason. I can understand thinking maybe that PG-13 movies are okay for a mature kid, but R rated movies are R rated for adult content.

LindsayDianne April 7, 2010, 7:12 AM

Oh… and perhaps it’s more absentee parenting that allows preteens to watch these movies that should be linked to underaged drinking, and less the movies themselves.

Anonymous April 7, 2010, 9:29 AM

I’m with LindsayDianne. Maybe parents who don’t care what movies their kids see also don’t watch their kids very closely in other situations, allowing them to try drinking behind their parents’ back. This is a classic case of “correlation does not imply causation.” I saw plenty of R rated movies before I was “supposed to” as a kid, because my parents trusted me to know the difference between fantasy and reality. I never once drank or did drugs behind their backs. Movies won’t hurt your kids if you talk to them and help them understand the difference between a movie and the real world.

Patois April 7, 2010, 9:54 AM

“The study found that watching R-rated movies affected the level of sensation-seeking (the desire for risky behavior) among adolescents.”

Someone needs to explain to the study’s author(s) the difference between causality and correlation. Perhaps the people who funded the study should request their money back.

Hannah April 7, 2010, 12:26 PM

My parents didn’t allow me to watch horror movies until i was about 15 1/2. I didn’t resent them and in fact im glad they didn’t. I STILL don’t even watch some shows because honestly how is it benefiting your life to watch gruesome graphic films? I won’t be allowing my children to watch horror films until their at least 15. Kids are way to desensitized to violence and these movies are part of that problem. I think it’ll seem horrible and the time when (if) you tell her no but she’ll understand when she gets older that you were protecting her. I’ve since told my parents that im GLAD they protected me and that they didn’t give in to the pressure to let their kids do and watch things that they weren’t comfortable with. Even if the movie is no big deal (i’ve never watched or heard of it) if YOUR uncomfortable with her seeing it there’s no reason for her to watch it. Despite the way people act today im still a firm believer children shouldn’t do or watch or listen to things that their parents aren’t comfortable with. They are the child we are the parent.

Wendi April 7, 2010, 1:21 PM

I am fine with my teens watching some rated R movies. They have to get the OK by me first. I will check it out and see what it is about and what is in it. Most of the time I will watch it with them. I will not let them watch the nudity and sex that seems to come in almost all movies these days. That is where I believe it would make it seem fine for them to behave like that. The violence they know is something that is not to be done, but sex, well everyone does it and I think we have created the teen pregnancy problem with this attitude. I want them to stay virgins for as long as possible and so far, they have no interest and do not date at all. My kids would not drink simply because I have taught them about it. I have given them sips of mine so they know the taste, which they don’t like. I think if you educate your children properly then you have nothing to worry about. I have explained to them what can happen with drinking and drugs and they want no part of it. Blaming the movies is just wrong, blame the parents for not being there for the kids.

Anonymous April 7, 2010, 2:41 PM

My parents didn’t let me watch rated R movies as a teenager but I still drink like a fish…go figure.

Aprilcot26 April 8, 2010, 11:05 AM

This seems kind of bogus to me. I (and most of my friends) started watching R-rated movies when I was in the sixth grade. I didn’t even take a sip of alcohol until I was in college and even then was never a big ‘drinker.’ I was a good kid growing up and my parents trusted that I could distinguish the fiction I saw onscreen from reality. Maybe I was the exception, but I find that pretty hard to believe.

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