Kiddie See, Kiddie Do

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The message from a study published by the BMJ Group, seems to support the idea that what young people watch, young people will imitate.

The study doesn’t come right out and say that children who view alcohol consumption in movies or television will drink because of it. That’s a jump from correlation to causation, and there may be another, untested for factor that increases both behaviors. For example, a child who is not allowed to view anything but PG movies because of religious beliefs might also be less likely to consume alcohol because of the same beliefs.

Still, the report gives us pause for thought. For example, they found that among the 6,500 teens surveyed (10 to 14 years old), and found that frequent viewing of movies where alcohol was shown were twice as likely to try drinking for themselves. Other factors considered were exposure to marketing messages (commercials about alcohol that run during television watching), the behavior of their peers and the home environment.

Along with an increased likelihood of drinking at all, binge drinking was also increased.

What’s interesting is that teens are aware of, and sometimes fans of beverages they may not be legally able to consume until a decade later. Merchandizing, like T-shirts or hats with alcoholic beverage logos were found in 10% of the teens studied.

Researchers in this study suggest that regulating media exposure of these marketing messages may have a positive impact. They believe alcohol should be treated much like cigarettes, with further restrictions on advertising and product placement.

Although not proven, the link between marketing messages and purchases is such a tried and true formula that manufacturers have been using it for years to sell products. They will have a hard time backing away from this and suggesting that their marketing isn’t influencing teens.

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