Lost time: Children and teenagers spend more time engaged in various media than they do in any other activity except for sleepin

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that exposure to mass media (eg, television, movies, video and computer games, the Internet, music lyrics and videos, newspapers, magazines, books, advertising) presents health risks for children and adolescents but can provide benefits as well. Media education has the potential to reduce the harmful effects of media and accentuate the positive effects. By understanding and supporting media education, pediatricians can play an important role in reducing harmful effects of media on children and adolescents.

Losing time: Children and teenagers spend more time engaged in various media than they do in any other activity except for sleepin. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation survey of more than 2000 8- to 18-year-olds revealed that children and teenagers in the United States spend an average of more than 7 hours/day with a variety of different media. By the time today’s young people reach 70 years of age, they will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years of their lives watching television.There are more homes in America that have a TV than those that have indoor plumbing, and today’s child lives in an environment with an average of :

4 TVs
3 DVD players or VCRs
1 DVR
2 CD players
2 radios
2 video game consoles
2 computers

Preadolescents and adolescents can download racy videos, send sexual text messages or explicit photographs to their friends, buy cigarettes and beer on the Internet, and post enticing profiles on Facebook. Yet, across all ages, TV remains the predominant medium. TV-viewing is also beginning at increasingly younger ages. The latest national report revealed that on a typical day, nearly two-thirds of children and infants younger than 2 years are watching TV for an hour and a half.

More than 70% of American teenagers have a TV in their own bedrooms, half have a VCR or DVD player, half have a video game console, and one-third have a computer and Internet access.  Time spent with media often displaces involvement in creative, active, or social activities.

THE EFFECTS OF MEDIA VIOLENCE ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR

Results of more than 2000 scientific studies and reviews have shown that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children and adolescents, desensitizes them to violence, and makes them believe that the world is a “meaner and scarier” place than it is. Violence appears in various forms of media entertainment such as movies, video games, and TV news. For example, nearly 90% of the top-grossing PG-13–rated films of 1999–2000 contained violence. Research has shown that news reports of bombings, natural disasters, murders, and other violent crimes have the potential to traumatize young children.

SEXUAL CONTENT IN THE MEDIA

American media—both programming and advertising—are highly sexualized in their content. On prime-time TV, more than 75% of shows contain sexual content, yet for only 14% of sexual incidents is any mention made of risks or responsibilities of sexual activity. In the first 10 months of 2004, the makers of erectile-dysfunction drugs spent nearly $350 million on advertising, which makes sex seem like a harmless recreational activity.Major networks remain extremely reluctant to advertise birth control pills, condoms, or emergency contraceptives, which could avert thousands of unwanted adolescent pregnancies and elective abortions by adolescents each year.Research is beginning to show that all of this sexual content may contribute to early sexual intercourse among teenagers.

EFFECTS OF MEDIA ON OBESITY AND SCHOOL PERFORMANCE

Increased TV use is documented to be a significant factor leading to obesity and may lead to decreased school achievement as well. New research is also investigating whether there might be a relationship between overstimulation from high levels of media use and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, sleep disorders and eating disorders.

Lead Author: Victor C. Strasburger, MD (American Academy of Pediatrics)

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