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30 Years Of Studies Find Too Much Media Hurts Kids

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 12:02 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Teen Pregnancy, Obesity, Video Games, Sexual Content, Television

Excessive media watching leads to obesity, early sexuality and distorted view of the world this compilation of 30 years of studies finds.



IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / TV watching / author: digitalhallway


As if the evidence against too much media was not clear enough - this compilation of 173 studies finds that spending a lot of time with media – whether in front of the television, playing video games, and online leads to a range of health problems for children.

Yale University, the National Institutes of Health and California Pacific Medical Center, analyzed the studies done since 1980 in the most comprehensive assessment to date on how media impacts youth. 

Obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol use, and early sexual activity were all linked to early and excessive media exposure.

“I think we were pretty surprised by how overwhelming the number of studies was that showed this negative health impact," NIH bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the researchers in the report released by the advocacy group Common Sense Media and reported by Reuters.

About 80 percent of the studies point to a negative link between media hours and health.

How Much Is Too Much?           

Today it is not uncommon for a child to spend nearly 45 hours online, watching television, on their cell phone and playing video games, according to the study. 

Compare that to 17 hours a week interacting with parents and 30 hours a week in school.

One study found children as young as three, who spent more than eight hours a day watching television, were likely to become obese by the age of seven.

Researchers found that among 73 studies, 86 percent show obesity is linked to high media exposure.

And while kids are not only learning life’s lessons from the media, they are also picking up character traits and behaviors.

“Our kids are sponges, and we really need to remember they learn from their environment,” said coauthor Cary P. Gross, a professor at Yale, to the Washington Post. 

Common Sense Media, which helped finance the study, is taking the lead, among other groups, in helping parents understand the myriad of information and images their kids are receiving, including this video

Some television programs and music videos can lead to a “distorted view of sex,” with girls dressing for sexuality and boys believing girls are to be exploited.

Researchers say they are not interested in censorship.

Marcella Nunez-Smith, a lead author from Yale School of Medicine, calls the mammoth study a “wake-up call” for parents, teachers and society at large.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the reviewers, is also the brother of Barack Obama’s new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

He and Jim Steyer will be addressing Washington policy makers today urging lawmakers to underwrite media education efforts and public service advertising urging the entertainment industry to be more “responsible and responsive.”

Common Sense Media has many suggestions and videos on how parents can involve themselves in their children’s media experiences. The nonprofit group also rates movies for their appropriateness to specific age groups.    # 

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