A new study of middle school students in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests that children exposed to R rated movies are significantly more likely to drink alcohol that those whose parents did not allow them to watch such movies.
This study joins others in the field that show that watching media with adult content can increase risk taking and thrill seeking behavior in children, along with smoking, violence and early sexual acting out.
I have been noticing the disturbing trend to make children's cartoons more "edgy" and "adult". This surreptitious media behavior often lures kids and their parents into watching a movie that seems child friendly and ends up exposing children to violence and/or sexual themes much earlier than is healthy. Also, many parents don't give this a second thought. "It's a cartoon" after all.
The trend toward "dark" superheros and PG kids movies is disturbing. Just because something is a "cartoon" doesn't mean it is appropriate for small children. Equally, just because something was originally marketed to children 30, 40, or 50 years ago, doesn't mean that current Hollywood types have stayed with that original goal.
A show as obviously adult in content as the Simpsons or South Park needs to be vigorously and persistently kept away from young children, who are, after all, naturally lured by the cartoon nature of such shows, something R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. discovered a long time ago!
Paying attention to the family's media diet is as important as paying attention to what they eat.