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SUBSTANCE USE AND TELEVISION

Televisions (TVs) have been popular since they were first developed. Now, they have become much more than just a source for information. They are a form of entertainment that allows us to see the news, TV shows, and movies of all kinds.

Most families have at least one TV in their home while many have two or more. According to the University of Michigan Health System, more than 70 percent of children ages 8 to 18 have TVs in their bedroom3. This gives kids access to TV shows and movies that may be inappropriate for them. One study suggests that television influence can increase violent acts, substance abuse and sexual activity in youth1. For example, one-half of the G-rated animated feature films, as well as many music videos, show alcohol and tobacco use as normal behavior without conveying the long-term consequences1. Most shows are usually harmless and have little content that could be harmful to children. Here are a few, however, that you should be aware of:

  • 13 Reasons Why: This is a Netflix drama and is based on a novel by Jay Asher. The show depicts a teenage girl, Hannah, who completes suicide after she is harassed and bullied by her friends and classmates. Hannah leaves a box of voice recordings that tell the 13 reasons why she made the choice she did. It shows the substance abuse and physical abuse that affected Hannah’s mental status and ultimately lead to her death.
  • Euphoria: This show illustrates the lives of a group of teenagers in an American suburb. This dark story shows some of the things that our children may face in today’s changing world. The issue in this series is substance abuse, but the show also demonstrates other issues. Some of them are the transition from high school to college, anger, sexual relationships, and transgender related issues.
  • A Star is Born: This is the third remake of this movie. It follows a love story between two musicians, and one of them suffers from substance use disorder for drugs and alcohol. The movie shows how substance use disorder affects all aspects of life for not only the sufferer, but also for those that love them.

The TV shows that our children watch can have an impact on them! Television often depicts substance use as hip, sexy and largely consequence-free; not showing the health, social or legal costs.2 These shows can either raise awareness, or normalize substance abuse, violence and much more. Either way, it is important for parents to pay attention to what their children are watching, and to have the conversation. Please visit RAYSAC.org for more information on how to talk to your kids about substance use and misuse.  

References:

1. Canadian Paediatric Society. (2003). The impact of media use on children and youth. Paediatric Child Health. May-June 2003. 8(5). P.301-306. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792691/

2. CMCH, Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Center on Media and Child Health. https://cmch.tv/parents/alcohol-tobacco-and-drugs/ .

3. Live Strong. How much TV does the average child watch each day? LiveStrong. https://www.livestrong.com/article/222032-how-much-tv-does-the-average-child-watch-each-day/

 

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