Kids, presidents, and booze

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Research shows that U.S. kids can name more brands of beer than they can names of U.S. presidents.

How many U.S. presidents can you name? Let’s see, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush #1, George Bush, #2, and Barack Obama. That’s 11, not bad. An oft-cited research study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Internet in 1988 found that the average American child between the ages of 8-12 can name four American presidents. In isolation, that’s not too bad—that will probably get them through most history tests and maybe even the ACT. These same children, however, can name five brands of beer.

Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are splattered across the media. Research shows that the average U.S. citizen sees about 2,000 alcohol ads per year. Teenagers, though, see more tobacco and alcohol advertising than adults. On average, about 75% of the top 100 movies at the box office contain smoking, and about 1 in 3 of the top prime-time TV shows feature alcohol. About 81% of 6th-12th graders have seen images of smoking in TV or in movies, and about 85% of these same kids have seen tobacco ads in stores, newspapers, and magazines. About 22% of movies contain portrayals of illicit drugs, and more than half of these show no harmful consequences of using illicit drugs.

You might be like me when I first heard these numbers. They were hard to believe. It’s also hard to believe that any children’s programming would contain alcohol and tobacco. But, each of the following children’s programs or movies shows characters smoking: Tom & Jerry, Rango, 101 Dalmations, Pinnochio, Peter Pan, the Flintstones, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules, to name a few. And the following movies are examples of children’s movies or shows that show alcohol: Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Fantasia, and The Great Mouse Detective.

You know by now what my recommendation to parents is. How does your family deal with alcohol advertising?

Note: (statistics and data presented here come from a chapter in this book).

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