Report Ties Children's Use of Media to Their Health

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, December 4, 2008

Report Ties Children's Use of Media to Their Health

The National Institutes of Health and a nonprofit advocacy group, Common Sense Media, have another reason for President-elect Barack Obama to keep urging parents to “turn off the TV.”

In what researchers call the first report of its kind, a review of 173 studies about the effects of media consumption on children asserts that a strong correlation exists between greater exposure and adverse health outcomes.

“Coach potato does, unfortunately, sum it up pretty well,” said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, chairman of the bioethics department at the institutes’ clinical center, one of the study’s five reviewers.

The report should compel lawmakers to underwrite media education efforts and public service advertising campaigns and should motivate the entertainment industry to be more “responsible and responsive,” said Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, which helped to finance the study.

In a clear majority of those studies more time with television, films, video games, magazines, music and the Internet was linked to rises in childhood obesity, tobacco use and sexual behavior. A majority also showed strong correlations — what the researchers deemed “statistically significant associations” — with drug and alcohol use and low academic achievement.

Researchers sought to look at the health effects of a wide array of media and distill 30 years of research into a simple message. “The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age,” Mr. Steyer said.

Source: Common Sense Media