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Drinking Linked to R-Rated Movies?

teen-drinkingMiddle-schoolers who are forbidden to watch R-rated movies are less likely to start drinking than peers whose parents are more lenient about such films, new research on 2,406 children shows.

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that among those whose parents let them watch R-rated movies "all the time," almost a quarter had tried a drink without their parents' knowledge. That compares with barely 3 percent who tried a drink among those who were "never allowed" to watch R-movies.

The outcome isn't based on other parenting decisions, such as keeping greater tabs on children's media use, says pediatrician James Sargent, co-author of the study and a professor at the school in Hanover, N.H.

He says researchers controlled for parenting style and still found "the movie effect is over-and-above that effect." Findings are published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

For the study, students in grades 5-8 (ages 10-14) completed paper surveys and then were followed 13-26 months later with a touch-tone telephone survey. Researchers measured how much alcohol use kids were exposed to by asking whether they had viewed movies in a list of 23 R-rated films.

"The fact that they found an effect from the movies and they found an effect at that young age is doubly significant because a lot of research shows the younger kids use (alcohol), the greater the risk," says David Walsh, founder of the non-profit National Institute on Media and the Family, which closed in December. He was not involved in the study.

Sargent says the findings don't mean parents should "let their children watch 10 PG-13 movies a week. I would argue a lot of PG-13 movies should be rated R."

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