A new study by Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center finds that exposure to media damages children’s long-term health.
80% of the studies reviewed link greater exposure to media with negative health effects for kids and adolescents.[social_buttons]
Common Sense Media published the report, Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review, which reviewed 173 of the best studies from the last 30 years which examine the connection between media exposure and negative health effects on children.
The average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games, the study reported. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school, the study said.
“This review is the first ever comprehensive evaluation of the many ways that media impacts children’s physical health. The results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between media exposure and long-term negative health effects to children. This study provides an important jumping-off point for future research that should explore both the effects of traditional media content and that of digital media –– such as video games, the Internet, and cell phones –– which kids are using today with more frequency.” – Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., National Institutes of Health
Seven different health outcomes were analyzed: attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADDH), obesity, low academic achievement, tobacco use, drug use, alcohol use, and sexual behavior.
Studies on all types of media (including television, movies, internet, video games, magazines and music) were searched for, but most of the quality studies found involved television, movies and music. Fewer studies were available that examined the impact of internet and video games, and there were no studies found on the impact of cell phones.
The strongest connection was found between the amount of TV watching and childhood obesity:
- 86% of these studies found a statistically significant relationship between increased media exposure and an increase in childhood obesity.
- 82% of studies concluded that more hours of media predicted increased weight over time.
- A longitudinal study of 5,493 children reported that those who spent more than eight hours watching TV per week at age three were significantly more likely to be obese at age seven.
“Media is increasingly pervasive in the lives of children and adolescents. Parents and educators must consider the effects of media when they’re trying to address issues with their child’s health. This report makes it clear that we need a bold new agenda on media and technology use. We hope this report will create a new sense of urgency in that regard.”- James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media
The study makes some recommendations about kids and media exposure:
- Limit the amount of time kids use media. Monitor their use, and explain to them why too much
time in front of a screen is harmful.
- Take kids outside to play. Encourage them to spend more time playing instead of watching – and playing real games instead of virtual ones.
- Teach kids to be smart media users. Schools can help children – and parents – learn simple ways to manage the media in their lives, and to balance media use with more healthy activities.
- Bring back physical education. Sports and physical activities are an important part of kids physical and social development, and school is a great opportunity for kids to learn more about saying healthy.
- For policymakers: Encourage more research on media and kids. Establish limits on advertising of junk food to kids. Develop public service advertising campaigns that encourage healthy habits.
Download the Executive Summary of the report and read it for yourself, then start a “media diet” for your family.
The healthiest thing you can do for your kids (and yourself) might be to trash the TV!
Image: Aaron Escobar at Flickr under Creative Commons License