Effects on Children
The effects on children by electronic media (TV, movies, video games, Internet, advertising and others) has been profound in the United States. While these media outlets can provide education and entertainment to children, many researches are concerned with the negative impact electronic media is having on children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics was so concerned about these negative effects that they launched a campaign in 1997 called Media Matters to help pediatricians, parents and children become more aware of the influence that media have on child and adolescent health.
Concerns they have center around the following:
TimeIt has been estimated that children in the United States watch about 4 hours of TV every day (that estimate continues to rise). If you also add in the time spent listening to music, playing video games and on the Internet then a large portion of a child's day is spent in front of a television or computer rather than on healthier activities like interacting with others or reading.
NutritionObesity in U.S. children is at epidemic levels. Children who spend a lot of time watching TV, playing video games or on the computer are more likely to be obese because they are not spending enough time playing or getting exercise. They also view thousands of commercials each year for unhealthy foods -- snacks, sugary cereals and candy -- which influence their eating habits.
ViolenceNumerous research studies have shown a direct correlation between aggressive behavior and children who see violence on TV or play violent video games. A 2004 study, which looked at violence in video games, showed that teens who play violent video games for extended periods of time demonstrate the following behaviors:
- Tend to be more aggressive.
- Are more prone to confrontation with their teachers.
- May engage in fights with their peers.
- See a decline in school achievements (Gentile et al, 2004).
SexIn addition to increased violent content in electronic media, children are today exposed to more adult behaviors, like sex. Much of this content is shown to be normal, fun, exciting but without discussion of the risks of early sexual activity, pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Children often copy these behaviors in order to make themselves feel like an adult.
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Tips on managing your child's media consumption
Because of the popularity of electronic media, completely eliminating them from your child's life might be difficult. However, following are suggestions for decreasing the negative impact that they might have on your child.
- Monitor all of your child's media consumption -- video games, television, movies and Internet.
- With your child, discuss and make decisions on how much your child is allowed to play video games, listen to music or watch TV. Enforce those limits and be consistent.
- Be a good example by limiting your own use of electronic media.
- Take the time to discuss with your children the games they are playing or other media they are watching. Ask your children how they feel about what they observe in these video games, television programs or movies. This is an opportunity to share your feelings and grow closer with your child.
- Share with other parents information about certain games or ideas for helping each other in parenting.
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Media Matters, American Academy of Pediatrics. Last Accessed April 2013
Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P., Linder, J. & Walsh, D. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.