Research Watch: Music Videos, TV and Alcohol

Diana Zuckerman
January 1, 1999

By Thomas Robinson, Helen Chen, and Joel Killen

Summary in Pediatrics,

Vol. 102, No. 5, November, 1998

Free copy of complete article at

Any adult who has watched MTV has reason to worry that music videos might influence the attitudes and behaviors of kids who watch them. A new study of more than 1,500 ninth graders shows that boys or girls who have never drank alcohol are more likely to start drinking if they watch these programs regularly.

Students' drinking habits changed during the 18 months of the study: 36 percent who weren't drinking at the start of the study began to drink, but only 51 percent of those who were drinking at the start of the study continued to drink. Two major influences were music videos and TV viewing.

Every hour per day of viewing music videos increased the chances of non-drinkers starting to drink by 31 percent. Each hour per day of TV viewing increased the chances of starting to drink by 9 percent. In contrast, every hour of video viewing predicted an 11 percent decrease in the likelihood of starting to drink.

Time spent on computer games or video games was not related to drinking.

Watching music videos or TV had no apparent impact on whether the ninth graders continued to drink. The authors speculated that music videos and TV programs and commercials tend to portray drinking as part of having a good time, thus encouraging kids to try it. Once they start to drink, the experience of drinking influences whether or not they continue, and the portrayals on music videos and TV are not as important.

The study provides new information about alcohol use, but is similar to other findings regarding violence. Thirty years of research clearly shows that watching violent programs — whether TV, movies, or music videos — increases the violent behavior of children and youth. Unlike this new study of alcohol use, watching violent programs tends to have a long-term impact on the violent behavior of those who watch it.

The bottom line for youth workers who have some control over kids TV viewing: don't let them watch programs that you don't want them to imitate.

Zuckerman, Diana. "Music Videos, TV and Alcohol." Research Watch review of "Television and Music Video Exposure and Risk of Adolescent Alcohol Use". Youth Today, Dec/Jan 1999, p. 11.

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