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And music videos their image.

Television exerts a powerful influence on children, shaping their culture, desires, and self-image. A new study finds that children who watch music videos on television receive constant reinforcement of a message that runs counter to their health: It's cool to smoke and drink.

Robert H. DuRant of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his coworkers recorded more than 500 different music videos at random from four television networks in early 1994. All aired during periods when young children might watch.

At least 10 percent of the videos on each network depicted tobacco use, and at least 20 percent showed drinking, they report in the July American Journal of Public Health Music Television (MTV) led the pack in both categories, DuRant notes, "with almost 26 percent of its videos containing smoking--more than twice as many as on Country Music Television."

In general, a lead singer or performer was twice as likely to smoke and three times as likely to drink as a background player. Musical genres also differed in their depiction of these legal drugs. For instance, almost 30 percent of rap videos depicted smoking--three times the rate seen in country videos. Moreover, DuRant found, smoking and drinking "were portrayed as positive" in 75 percent of the cases.

One-third of the alcohol use occurred in conjunction with at least mildly sexual behavior. DuRant's group now worries that this "positive pairing of alcohol use with sexually explicit themes" could have a "profound influence" on how children view drinking.

Particularly troubling, of those videos with smoking or drinking, between 6 and 10 percent involved use of the substances by what appeared to be children.

DuRant, a medical sociologist, worries that if young people "see these behaviors glamorized by role models, it might encourage them to consider smoking and drinking acceptable." While he would not advocate government censorship of such videos, he believes networks "need to make a stand, saying `we're not going to play these any more'"--much as MTV recently moved to pull all videos depicting guns, he says.
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Title Annotation:television images especially in music videos, are so powerful for children that they are stimulated to practice unsafe behavior such as drinking and smoking
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 16, 1997
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