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TV Ratings on Sex, Violence & Substance Use Offer Little Help to Parents

TV Ratings on Sex, Violence & Substance Use Offer Little Help to Parents

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Research shows there is a relationship between young people seeing sexual content on television and the risk of teen pregnancy, seeing violence and teen aggression, and seeing depictions of smoking and drinking and youth substance use, which is why the US Congress asked the entertainment industry to develop a TV Parental Guidelines rating system over 20 years ago.

However, a study conducted by researchers at the C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth  “Industry Television Ratings for Violence, Sex andSubstance Use,” shows these industry ratings were ineffective in warning parents about content that might not be appropriate for children to view.

Researchers compared 323 episodes of 17 television shows for sex, violence, smoking and drinking, and found that only sex and gore were demonstrably more prevalent in mature rated shows. All other risk behaviors were pervasive across most rating categories, especially interpersonal violence (occurring in 70 percent of episodes) and alcohol use (in 58 percent of shows), but also smoking (31 percent).

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Study authors concluded that in this sample of shows, the ratings system did little to help parents discriminate and limit exposure to these behaviors. More research is needed across more television shows to monitor and improve the TV Parental Guidelines.

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