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Parental control of media influences behavior

HANOVER, NH -- Children whose parents prevent them from watching R-rated movies have a much lower risk of taking up smoking. That's the finding of research published today in the journal, Pediatrics.

The study, by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS), builds on earlier research showing a link between seeing smoking in movies and teen smoking. Now, researchers have shown that parents who monitor their children's movie and video-watching habits and prohibit R-rated movies - where smoking is much more common - can profoundly affect the chances their children will try smoking.

Only 3 percent of kids who were never allowed to watch R-rated movies tried smoking, reports lead researcher and pediatrician James D. Sargent, MD, compared with 14 percent of those who frequently viewed such movies. "The results are striking. Parents really can make a difference," he said.

Sargent noted that movie restriction has a larger impact on adolescents whose parents do not smoke. These adolescents are 10 times more likely to start smoking if allowed to see R-rated movies. "Movie images of smoking may be particularly powerful for kids whose parents don't smoke because those kids aren't exposed to the realities of smoking, just to the glamorized images of smoking depicted in the movies. Their perceptions about smoking are more easily influenced by such images," Sargent said. Of the nearly 2,600 children in the study sample, 400 came from homes where the parents neither smoked, nor allowed their children to watch R-rated movies, among whom only 3 went on to try smoking. In contrast, 10 percent of children whose parents did not smoke, but who were allowed to watch R-rated movies went on to smoke.

When asked what parents can do to keep their kids from smoking, he said, "If you are a smoker the most important thing you can do is to quit smoking. Smoking not only harms your health, but it also harms the health of other family members and also in
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Contact: Deborah Kimbell
deborah.kimbell@hitchcock.org
603-653-1913
Dartmouth Medical School
6-Jul-2004


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