Adolescents shape their lives based on their observations of the world. In developing their identities, they look to their peers for direction. Today, because our children’s eyes are as likely to be looking down at their computer devices as they are to be looking up at our faces, we must consider the powerful influence of “super peers,” also known as the characters, personalities, and celebrities in the media.

Studies show that what children see normalized on screen has a great likelihood of being incorporated into their lives. Sometimes the influence is positive, but it can also be negative. For example, if they view an attractive character on TV drinking or smoking, they are at risk of glamorizing and wanting to imitate their behavior.

Here are some facts provided by the John Hopkins Hospital Children’s Center that will help you gain a better understanding of this issue:

  • Adolescents spend 8.6 hours per day engaged with electronic media.
  • 93 percent of movies adolescents tend to watch portray alcohol use, and 22 percent reference illicit drugs.
  • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, alcohol is the number one drug portrayed on television, appearing on 77 percent of TV episodes.
  • Alcohol shows up every 14 minutes on music videos.
  • 33 percent of drinking scenes on TV are humorous and involve attractive, successful, or influential characters; only 23 percent show negative consequences.
  • Studies show that with an increase of 1 hour per day of television viewing, there was a 9% average increased risk of starting to drink alcohol during the next 18 months
  • Studies also show that with each1 hour per day of music video viewing, there is a 31% average increased risk of starting to drink alcohol.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Employ a site called Kids In Mind that offers detailed ratings and descriptions of movies. It is a wonderful tool to help gauge if a movie is appropriate for your child’s and family’s viewing. This site also offers discussion topics that you can use to help raise awareness.
  • Practice parental mediation, as you interact with your child while he or she is actually using media. Use the content to spark discussions about the physical and mental health, the social, and the legal consequences of substance use.
  • Encourage Media literacy, which is defined as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and produce media messages. This is done by teaching children to think critically about what they view. Encourage them to question motivations behind and the accuracy of the different depictions.

 

Information in this article was adapted from the following sites: hopkinschildrens.org and aap.org