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Without a doubt, entertainment influences our moods and emotions. It follows, then, that there must be some carry-over to our choices and actions. It's interesting to note that most Americans believe a link exists between media and actual behavior. That's why USA Today reported that 83 percent of Americans wish the entertainment industry would voluntarily excise some of the sex and violence from television, movies and music lyrics. What's more, an even greater percentage of media insiders see the input-output link. According to a UCLA/U.S. News & World Report survey of 6,300 entertainment industry leaders, 87 percent feel violence in the mass media contributes to violence in society. Two-faced? Yes. Likely to bring about content changes in the future? Time will tell.

What's encouraging is that medical experts are also beginning to acknowledge the connection. In July 2000, four national health associations issued a joint statement linking the violence in television, music, video games and movies to increasing violence among children. "Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life," explained the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. "The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors in children."

This admission is good news for discerning families. Perhaps the health professionals' diagnosis will prompt producers of damaging entertainment to re-evaluate their art. Still, nothing can erase the numerous examples of teens whose actions have already been influenced by their media choices

It almost goes without saying that few will allow the influence of the media to turn them into killers or rapists. But how many teens will draw upon the counsel of an erotic lyric or explicit movie scene in that moment when they're tempted by a member of the opposite sex? How many will experiment with drugs simply because a popular musician or television program made them sound appealing? The probability that teens' actions will be at least somewhat influenced by their media choices is astronomical, especially considering the sheer volume of entertainment young people consume.

Adapted from the booklet What's Up With Today's Entertainment?: Raising Media-Wise Teens, copyright 2001