On Saturday, ABC begins a month-long March Against Drugs.
The target audience is parents. And the goal is to encourage
them to talk with their children about drugs.
This major public service campaign is more than the usual lip
service TV often gives to social problems. During the entire
month, the message that drug use has risks will appear in public
service announcements every network hour, and in stories on such
news series as World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In
addition, prime-time and daytime series will incorporate plots
with anti-drug messages.
Why the push? ABC executives say they're worried about the
startling rise in teen drug use.
"In the late '80s, drug use by teens and kids declined
substantially in this country, in part because of media efforts
to portray the damages," said ABC president David Westin in a
presentation to reporters in Los Angeles. "In recent years,
however, we've not paid as much attention to this critical
problem, in part because of a mistaken belief that we were past
Research suggests reaching parents first gets results. One ABC
study shows kids are half as likely to use drugs if an adult
talks to them about the risks.
"Maybe if we start talking, so will parents," Westin said.
Here are the trends, according to ABC.
After years of steady declines of illegal drug use among teens,
over the past three years more kids are using more illegal drugs
more frequently, including marijuana, stimulants and even
Changing attitudes are the reason. When kids see drugs as more
risky, more harmful and more socially unacceptable, fewer use
Media leadership can help reverse this trend with stories about
the dangers of drug usage.
Considered crucial are stories, programs and movies that avoid
glamorizing and normalizing drug use.
Members of the media aren't the only culprits when it comes to
kids hearing less about the dangers of drugs, according to Lloyd
D. Johnson of the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future
Program. Schools are receiving less federal funding for drug
abuse prevention. And parents appear to be talking less about
drugs to their children.
To help change that, ABC is calling March 30 ABC-D-Day. The
network will broadcast an ABC News Town Hall meeting that Sunday
night to focus on results of the campaign. And included will be
a period of silence during which parents across the country will
be urged to begin a discussion with their children about drugs.
Silence is acceptance, Westin said. "We want to change some
attitudes, but also change some behavior in our country."
Coincidentally, one prime-time show on another network is
already telling a dramatic cautionary tale about the hazards of
addiction. Party of Five (9 p.m. Wednesdays, Fox) has slowly
chronicled the descent of Bailey (played by Scott Wolf) into
Alcoholism is not a disease easily controlled or readily
acknowledged, said executive producers Chris Keyser and Amy
Lippman. Knowing that, they have set out to tell the story of a
young man's alcoholism over time.
"We wanted to show the reasons that cause a young drinker to
fail to see his growing problem, and how possible it is for a
concerned family to miss the signs as well. …