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Teens and Movies

The impact of movies on teens has been well studied, and although there is still much more research to be done, some things are already clear. While watching movies on the big screen can be entertaining for a teen, these movies can also have long-lasting effects on the way he or she views the world. The problem begins to occur when you start viewing movies as a guideline for how to live your life or start buying into the unrealistic portrayals of attractiveness, violent behavior and drug use often seen in popular films.

Body Image Issues and Sexuality

While watching attractive movie stars on screen can be entertaining for a teen, these stars sometimes project unrealistic images that can cause a teen to feel inferior. For some teens, watching films can change their body image and put pressure on them to lose weight. This can be especially problematic for teens who are already battling weight issues or struggling with obesity. Teens who watch movies with a lot of sexual content may be more likely to engage in sex at an earlier age and could put themselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

Movie Violence

Movie violence is often portrayed as harmless, but it can actually cause a rise in violent behavior in some teens. In particular, realistic violence in movies, such as portrayals of domestic violence or crime, can significantly impact a teen’s mental state. Some potential ways movie violence can influence a teen include:

  • * Desensitizing the teen to real-world violence
  • * Teaching aggressive behavior and encouraging violence as a way to solve conflict
  • * Increasing anxiety and stress by making the teen more afraid of becoming a victim of violence
  • * Making the teen less likely to report violence in school, domestic violence, or violence on the part of a boyfriend or girlfriend

For some teens, watching violent movies may be even more of a problem. Teens with impulse control problems, emotional problems or behavioral issues may be more influenced by movie violence than other teens. Because the impact on teens differs from person to person, some teens who are exposed to excessive violence in movies may end up becoming bullies, while others may become victims of bullying in school.

Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Use

Another way that movies can influence teens is by glorifying drug, alcohol and tobacco use. According to a May 2007 report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, teenagers who saw the most instances of smoking in movies were nearly twice as likely to try smoking themselves when compared to teens who saw the fewest instances of smoking in movies. In a separate study published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, researchers found that teens exposed to alcohol use in movies were more likely to start drinking at a young age. If you know a teen who has started using alcohol, drugs or tobacco as a result of watching movies that glorify these pursuits, call 1-888-388-5605 to find out how you can help that teen escapes from the grips of addiction.


While the effects of movies on teens can be worrying, parents are the top influences on how teens process and respond to what they see. When parents and teens establish a working dialogue about what the teen is viewing and discuss the differences between reality and on-screen portrayals, teens may be better able to withstand relentless negative images and influences. Peers can also be greatly influential and helpful in fighting the negative things portrayed in movies. You can help a friend who watches too many movies by encouraging him or her to do positive things, such as developing hobbies and finishing high school, instead of simply trying to recreate the lives of characters who might be bad influences.


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