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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
study had been marketed to children under 17; as had 70 percent of the adult-rated video games and 100 percent of the explicit music recordings. In addition, the FTC found that advertisements for these products rarely contained rating information. The FTC also conducted undercover shopping operations to retailers and movie theaters with unaccompanied teens (aged 13-17); the young shoppers were able to buy M-rated electronic games and “parental advisory” labeled music recordings 85 percent of the time and to purchase tickets for R-rated movies 46 percent of the time.
Follow-up reports (FTC, 2001, 2002) noted progress by the movie and video game industries in disclosing rating information in advertising and in limiting advertising for R-rated movies and M-rated games in teen-oriented media. However, the report found little improvement in advertising by the music recording industry and only weak progress in strengthening self-regulation. The motion picture studios and video game manufacturers have developed an age-based rating system, designed to inform parents of the level of objectionable material suitable for children of different ages. In contrast, the music industry’s “explicit content” warnings are not age specific and make no mention of the specific reasons for the warning (e.g., drug use, language, violence). However, one music industry member has begun including reasons for the warning on product packaging and advertising.
Extrapolating from recent national survey data, 11- to 13-year-olds spend an average of 6.2 hours per week, and 14- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 4.7 hours per week watching movies (Roberts et al., 1999a). In terms of alcohol content in films, recent content analyses indicate that alcohol was shown or consumed in 93 percent of the 200 most popular movie rentals for 1996 to 1997 (Roberts et al., 1999b). Although underage use of alcohol occurred in only about 9 percent of these films, alcohol and drinking were presented in an overwhelmingly positive light. Drinking was associated with wealth or luxury in 34 percent of films containing alcohol references and pro-use statements or overt advocacy of use occurred in 20 percent of the films. Anti-use statements appeared in 9 percent of films with alcohol references, 6 percent contained statements on limits as to when, where, and how much alcohol should be consumed, and 14 percent depicted refusals to drink.
Drinking in movies is often associated with such risky activities as crime or violence (38 percent), driving (14 percent), and sexual activity (19 percent). Portrayals of negative consequences of drinking are relatively rare. In all, 57 percent of films with alcohol references portrayed no consequences at all. Similar findings have emerged from other content analyses. Thus, at least one lead character drank in 79 percent of the top money-