Rated R for Riesling (And Other Kinds of Alcohol)

What happens when teens see drinking in movies? According to a new study of more than 5,000 15-year-olds in England, they drink more, a correlation that's reigniting a conversation about whether all films that depict alcohol usage should automatically earn an R rating. The study found that those who witnessed the most onscreen alcohol consumption were twice as likely to have drinking problems, 2.4 times more likely to drink weekly and 70% more likely to binge drink (defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a day).

Regarding those findings, Los Angeles Times contributor Karen Kaplan reports, "To the extent that movies contribute to teen drinking, one remedy would be to eliminate all drinking in movies made for minors, the study authors wrote. That means any film with even a glass of wine or a can of beer would invoke an R rating from the MPAA (or the equivalent from the British Board of Film Classification). It may sound extreme, but 'this is justified because movie rating systems exist to protect children from seeing media that may adversely affect their behavior,' according to the study. 'Adverse outcomes from alcohol use are a large societal public health problem.'" Kaplan also says that if the Motion Picture Association of America and its British equivalent were to adopt that recommendation, many more movies would receive an R rating: "A 2011 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that 72% of the top-grossing movies in the United Kingdom between 1989 and 2008 included scenes of drinking, but only 6% of them were rated for adults." [latimes.com, 4/13/15 stats, c&e]

'It's Just Fun'

“We live in a culture where it’s confusing to figure out whether your relationship with alcohol is healthy or unhealthy. Particularly if you’re young. You turn on the TV and you won’t see a commercial that cautions you. We see alcohol promoted in a way that suggests there are no ill effects, that it’s just fun, and of course everybody drinks. And it’s not consistent with reality. We don’t do a good enough job of helping people recognize when they may cross a line.”

Aaron White, senior advisor to the director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [theatlantic.com, 6/17/15]

All Together Now: Blunts Are Bad for Teens

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse is the latest organization to issue a warning regarding the harmful effects of marijuana use among adolescents. In the sixth report in the CCSA's ongoing Substance Abuse in Canada series, the organization's drug-use analysts note, "Accumulating research indicates that regular cannabis use initiated early in life can result in behavioral and cognitive impairments, including poor academic performance, and deficits in attention, information processing and memory. These deficits have been shown to persist after an individual stops using cannabis." [newswire.ca, 6/17/15; ccsa.ca, 6/17/15 c&e]

Getting High on Religion

The First Church of Cannabis, based in Indianapolis, will hold its first service July 1, and its founder William Levin expects a huge turnout. While recreational marijuana use is illegal in Indiana, July 1 marks the day that its Religious Freedom Restoration Act goes into effect. And because of the way the law is worded, it essentially permits the use of marijuana during services and on church premises. "At the end, we all rise and read the Deity Dozen, and at the end of the 12th Pathway we light up," says Levin. "We will not use any old books [like the Bible]. No guilt, sin or judgment. We teach the teachings of love and life … same as the old guys did, just with a modern pitch to it." [abcnews.com, 6/15/15]

It's a Dino Don't for Star's Kids

“It’s going to be a while until my daughter sees the film. In terms of my son, my husband needs to see the film, and we’ll talk about it and then determine when the right time is for him to see the film because he is 8 years old.” —Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard [movieguide.org, 6/11/15]

Cat Videos Are Good for You

Nearly 2 million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014, netting almost 26 billion views. And according to a study performed at Indiana University in Bloomington, watching the antics of all those cute video kitties can potentially deliver significant health benefits: a boost to energy levels, heightened positive emotions and a decrease in negative feelings. "Some people may think watching online cat videos isn't a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it's one of the most popular uses of the Internet today," said Jessica Gall Myrick, a media researcher at the university. "If we want to better understand the effects the Internet may have on us as individuals and on society, then researchers can't ignore Internet cats anymore." [nbcnews.com, 6/18/15 c&e]

Sharing 'Personal News'

The long-running CBS reality series Big Brother has announced its first transgender contestant with the addition of 25-year-old digital media consultant Audrey Middleton. "Audrey Middleton is a Big Brother super fan who applied online, like many other hopeful Houseguests, and was open about her transition in the application process," a CBS spokesperson said in the statement. "It is customary for Big Brother Houseguests to share personal news inside the house, and Audrey plans to discuss her story with the Houseguests in her own words during the premiere episode." [abcnews.com, 6/17/15]

Swerving Into the Texting Lane

Utah Valley University has decided to give a nod to students constantly glued to their Smartphones by creating specific "lanes" for texters on campus staircases. The university divided its stairs into three neon-green-striped lanes—one for walkers, one for runners and one for texters. The changes to the stairs were designed by the school’s marketing department to appeal to the student population that the director for campus recreation, Amy Grubbs, said is “constantly texting.” [abcnews.com, 6/17/15]

Brian Williams Steps … Sideways

Brian Williams, NBC's one-time nightly news anchor who was caught telling lies, recently apologized for his fibs and has been given a new job: the breaking news anchor at sister network MSNBC. He'll also fill in on occasion for NBC News anchor Lester Holt. The move is being classified as both a demotion and a chance for Williams to rehabilitate his career. But many are confused about just what message NBC is sending. "He's not credible to anchor one NBC network, but he's just fine for the other?" writes Time's James Poniewozik. "You could make a perfectly defensible argument that, look, anchors are newsreaders, and while Williams told a lie, he's no less suited for the job. And you can make a perfectly credible argument that anchors bear a public trust, which trust is shattered when they tell lies, on the newscast or off. This move, however, sort of says … both?" [time.com, 6/18/15]