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Want kids to say no to drugs? Check their viewing habits
New research has found links between media depictions of substance use and a child's likelihood to think it's OK to use. - photo by Chandra Johnson
Parents hoping to keep their kids from using drugs and alcohol may want to do more than keep tabs on where they are and who they're with. New research suggests parents may want to also pay attention to what their kids are watching.

While there's a plethora of evidence that depictions of drinking and smoking in movies may lead children and teens to think it's acceptable behavior, two new studies suggest that another form of media is just as influential: TV advertising.

Studies from the University of Cambridge and The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that kids who see TV ads for alcohol and e-cigarettes were more likely to try both activities and think it was normal behavior.

"The more exposure kids had to brand-specific alcohol ads on TV, the greater the total amount they consumed of those brands, even after adjusting for consumption of all non-advertised brands," The American Association for the Advancement of Science reported on the alcohol study, which surveyed more than 1,000 13-20-year-olds.

The Cambridge study found that children and teens who were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements were less likely to think occasional smoking was bad for their health than those who saw no advertising for e-cigarettes. That's troubling, the researchers wrote, because teens' exposure to e-cigarette advertising in the U.S. tripled between 2011 and 2013.

While parents can use their judgment about what movies and TV shows their kids can watch based the depiction of such risk behaviors, advertising is trickier to screen for, since it's virtually everywhere. Parents hoping for an advantage might take solace in the advice of New York Times parenting blogger KJ Dell'Antonia, who wrote about keeping fast food advertising from children last year: Try switching to "commercial-free" TV programming, like streaming, to avoid exposure.

Just make sure they binge watch responsibly.
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