Research grants are really such a gravy train. This old chestnut has been re-hashed (if you'll pardon the pun) slightly. The article appeared on The Age (Australia) website today:
Movies may be health hazard for teens
Watching many modern movies may be a health hazard, particularly for impressionable teenagers, an Australian researcher suggests.
University of Sydney scientists analysed 87 of the most popular films of the past 20 years, counting 53 sex scenes in almost a third of the movies, yet found only one suggestion of using a condom.
They found eight per cent of the blockbusters included scenes involving cannabis, seven per cent contained episodes of non-injecting illicit drug use, 32 per cent depicted alcohol intoxication and 68 per cent had actors smoking tobacco.
They said the movies tended to portray drug use in a positive light and nothing of the consequences.
Presenting the findings to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians' annual scientific meeting in Cairns, pediatrician Hasantha Gunasekera said he had no doubt one of the many influences that could change behaviour on a population level was the electronic media.
"We know how susceptible to influence adolescents in particular are. Certainly, the whole community is susceptible to them. That's why there's a multi-billion dollar advertising industry," Dr Gunasekera said outside the conference.
"That's why tobacco companies are spending millions of dollars ... just to have their product placed in a one-second shot in a movie.
"I think it's ridiculous to assume this is having no influence on behaviour."
Dr Gunasekera said studies internationally had found adolescents typically spend between three and six hours a day watching some form of electronic media - more hours than any activity except sleep.
"We estimate that the average child will spend twice as much time watching the media than they will listening to their teachers in the classroom and ... more time than speaking to their parents," he said in an interview.
"We have to assume that these things are having an influence and yet we go to so much trouble worrying about school curriculums, who's teaching it, what background they have.
"The content is tweaked and changed constantly but we spend absolutely no time thinking about or controlling or measuring what is actually twice as much of an influence in terms of time and that's the content of the media."
Dr Gunasekera said he was not advocating that every movie should be The Sound of Music.
"I'm not saying there should be no sex or drugs in movies," he said.
"We want movies to be a reflection on life but if it's a reflection on life, people have consequences when they use drugs. There are overdoses.
"There's unwanted pregnancies for unprotected sex, there's HIV. We didn't see any of those things in these movies.
"Why aren't the true depictions and the true consequences of these activities actually demonstrated and then people can make up their own mind what they want to do.
"There's no reason why when we have a scene of sexual intercourse, for example, we can't have a pack of condoms sitting on the bedside table."
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