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Should Parents Worry About Violence in Movies, Music, Games?

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Annie Finnegan

Sept. 12, 2000 -- Music, movie, and video game companies often specifically target children when they market products supposed to be for "mature audiences only," according to a report just released by the Federal Trade Commission. But the question most parents have is, do children really absorb the messages they get from these different venues?

The answer, to some extent, is yes, many experts say. And some public health officials, pediatricians, and psychologists have expressed concern about the issue and are calling for changes.

The FTC report, released Monday, found that:

  • Of 44 teen-oriented movies that were rated "R" for violence, some 80% were marketed to kids under age 17.
  • Of 55 CDs sold with parental warnings, marketing plans for about 25% of them were specifically aimed at teens.
  • Of 118 video games rated "mature," 83 (70%) were promoted to children.
  • Nearly 85% of the time, children are able to easily buy music and games rated "mature."
  • Just over 50% of movie theaters admit children under 17 to R-rated movies when they are not accompanied by an adult.

Entertainment-industry executives have turned thumbs down on the accusations, saying that ratings and parental warnings are clearly stated. But a Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Wednesday, and the report has quickly become an issue in the presidential campaign.

The violence to which American children are exposed in the name of entertainment is affecting their values and behavior, according to a recent statement from four of the nation's top medical associations -- the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"We are supportive of the FTC report and are calling on the entertainment industry to join us in working to create safe media for children," says Michael Rich, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Rich is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on public education, which assesses the effects of media on children's mental health.

"Since the early days of TV, people have been concerned about this issue," Rich tells WebMD. In fact, more than 3,500 studies in the last 50 years have investigated whether the media bring about different values and behaviors in children. "Of those studies, all but 18 showed an association between exposure to media violence and violent behavior. Twelve of the 18 were funded by the entertainment industry."

"Particularly in the U.S., violence in media is perpetrated by heroes as an acceptable means of conflict resolution," he tells WebMD. "It's our Clint Eastwoods and Arnold Schwarzeneggers, not the bad guys, who are wasting people. So what's happening is they're being exposed to violent behavior as an acceptable means of conflict resolution."

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