Kids watching PG-13 movies still exposed to sex, alcohol, other risky behavior

Researchers in new study fear it could influence some kids to take similar risks

Author: Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 09 2013 09:56:36 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 09 2013 09:57:00 PM EST

Parents who allow their kids to watch PG-13 movies may still be exposing them to many risky behaviors also seen in R-rated movies. 

A new study finds many of the most popular PG-13 and R-rated movies contain violent characters engaging in risky behaviors like smoking and drinking.

"So parents think that by allowing their kids to watch movies that are PG-13 that it's OK for kids that are 13 and up, but what we're finding is those risky behaviors, those violent and risky behaviors are the same in both PG-13 and R rated movies," said Dr. Kate Eshleman, who did not take part in the study but is a child psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

University of Pennsylvania researchers studied the top-grossing movies from 1985 to 2010. They found 90% of them contained a segment with a main character involved in violence and 77% of the films had the same character engaging in at least one other risky behavior.

Surprisingly, the results were similar for PG-13 and R-rated movies. Researchers say portraying these characters in multiple risky behaviors is concerning because violent films appeal to certain teens.

They say "sensation seekers" may be encouraged to try drugs, tobacco, or alcohol and that the motion picture association of America may not be sensitive to the joint portrayal of violence and other risky behaviors.  Eshleman agrees, but says parents are still the first line of defense.

"Parents really need to have oversight into what their kids are doing," Eshleman. "And so, if you're allowing your children to watch a show it's probably a good idea to pre-screen it or watch it with them, so if things arise they can address them in the moment."

Complete findings for this study are available in the online version of the journal Pediatrics.