The influence of the media on the psychosocial development of children is profound. Thus, it is important for physicians to discuss with parents, their child’s exposure to media and to provide guidance on age appropriate use of all media including television, radio, music, video games and the internet.
The objectives of this statement are to explore the beneficial and harmful effects of media on children’s mental and physical health and to identify how physicians can counsel patients and their families and promote the healthy use of the media in their communities.
Television has the potential to generate both positive and negative effects and many studies have looked at the impact of television on society, particularly on children and adolescent. An individual child’s developmental level is a critical factor in determining whether the medium will have positive or negative effects. Not all television programs are bad, but data showing the negative effects of exposure to violence, inappropriate sexuality and offensive language are convincing. Still, physicians need to advocate continued research into the negative and positive effects of media on children and adolescents.
Current Literature Suggests The Following
(A) Physicians can change and improve children’s television viewing habit.
(B) Canadian Children watch excessive amounts of television
(C) There is a relationship between watching violent television programming and an increase in violent behaviour by children.
(D) Excessive television watching contributes to the increased incidence of childhood obesity.
(E) Excessive television watching may have a deleterious effect on learning and academic performance.
(F) Watching certain programmes may encourage irresponsible sexual behaviour.
(G) Television is an effective way of advertising products to children of various ages.
The average Canadian Child Watches nearly 14 hours of television each week. By his/her high school graduation, the average teen will have spent much time watching television than in the classroom studies show how time spent watching television varies between different age groups and cultures. This is especially relevant when studying the effects of excessive television exposure on disadvantaged populations.
The amount of time that younger North American Children currently spend watching television has not decreased significantly. A substantial number of children begins watching television at an earlier age and in greater amounts than what experts recommend. Evidence suggests that televisions influence on children and adolescents is related to how much time they spend watching television. As a results, with prolonged viewing, the work shown on television becomes the real world. Television viewing frequently limits children’s time for vital activities such as playing, reading, learning to talk, spending time with peers and family, story telling, participating in regular exercise and developing other necessary physical, mental and social skills. In addition to the amount of time spend in front of the television, other facts that influence the medium’s effect on children include the child’s development level, individual susceptibility and whether children watch television alone or with their parents.
Television can be a powerful teacher, watching sesame street is an example of how toddlers can learn valuable lessons about racial harmony, cooperation, kindness, simple arithmetic and the alphabet through an educational television format. Some public television programme stimulate visits to the zoo, libraries, book stories, museum and other active recreational settings and educational videos can certainly serve a powerful prosocial teaching devices. The educational value of Sesame Street has been shown to improve the reading and learning skills of its viewer. In some disadvantaged settings, healthy television habits may actually be a beneficial teaching tool.
Still watching television takes time away from reading and school work more recent and well recontrolled studies show that even 1 hour to 2 hours of daily unsupervised television viewing by school aged children has a significant deleterious effect on academic performance especially reading.
The amount of violence on television is on the rise. The average child sees 12,000 violent acts on television annually, including many depictions of murder and rape. More than 1000 studies vonfian that exposure to heavy doses of television violence increases aggressive behaviour particularly in boys. Other studies link television or newspaper publicity of suicides to an increased suicide risk. The following groups of children may be more prone to violence on television.
· Children from minority and immigrant groups
· Emotionally disturbed Children
· Children with learning disabilities
· Children who are abused by their parents and
· Children in families in distress.
Physicians who see a child with a history of aggressive behaviour should inquire about the child’s exposure to violence portrayed on television.
Because television takes time away from play and exercise activities, children who watch a lot of television are less physically fit and more likely to eat high fat and high energy snacks foods. Television viewing makes a substantial contribution to obesity because prime time commercials promote unhealthy dietary practices. Eating meals while watching television should be discouraged because it may lead to less meaningful communication and arguably poorer eating habits because of some teenage girls, who may emulate the thin role models seen on television.
Today the television has become a leading sex educator in Canada. Between 1976 and 1996, there has been a 270% increase in sexual interaction during the family hour of 2000 hours to 2100 hours. Television exposes children to adult sexual behaviours in ways that portray these actions as normal and risk free, sending message that because these behaviours are frequent “everybody does it” sex between unmarried partners is shown 24 times more often than sex between spouses. While sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy are rarely mentioned. Teens rank the media as the leading source of information about sex, second only to school sex education programs. Numerous studies document adolescents susceptibility to the media’s influence on their sexual attitudes, values and beliefs. A detailed guide to responsible sexual content on television and in films and music can be found in other peer-reviewed publication.
Music videos may have a significant behavioural impact of desentizing viewers to violence and making teenagers more likely to approve of premarital sex. Up to 75 percent of videos contain sexually explicit material, and more than half contain violence that is often committed against women. Women are portrayed frequently in a condescending manner that affects children’s attitudes about sex roles.
Video games and internet also affect a child’s postural development.
· Physicians should regularly inquire about media habits when taking a psychosocial history, using the media history form developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and the media awareness network.
· Physicians should become more familiar with the kinds of media to which their patients may be exposed to, such as programs that portray irresponsible sex and violence, and questionable internet sites.