Medias Influence on Children
By: Emily McManus
Though many parents believe that the amount of media their child consumes does not affect their well being, research has proved otherwise. Studies have found links to obesity, eating disorders, attention disorders, violence, sex, drug use, and a child's general perception of the real world. It may suggest what a person should wear, what people should eat, or what basic morals they should hold. Media can lay influence on a child through obvious sources such as television or the internet, but it can also appear in music, movies, video games, magazines, and advertising.
One of the major negative effects that media productions have children is their showcase of violence. Thousands of studies have linked media use and aggressive behavior. By age 18, a child will, on average, have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, including 18,000 murders. (http://www.cleancutmedia.com/tv-shows/tv-medias-influence-on-child-development) It is likely that children who witness this violence may believe that it is appropriate behavior under the same circumstances. the top three causes of death among 15- to 19-year-olds all involve accidental or intended violence. The top three causes of death among 15- to 19-year-olds all involve accidental or intended violence. Video games that are war related, will give the player the sense that he or she is invincible, with the illusion of unlimited lives. Though it would be difficult to say that these teenagers committed these acts of violence based on medias influence on them, it has been supported by multiple studies that what they are watching on television has had a major influence on their ability to comprehend right from wrong.
It is no secret that the number of obese children in America has grown massively within the last twenty years, and continues to heighten. People across the country have several different theories as to why this epidemic may be such a concern in today's youth. Some people suggest that food production companies are making their food more fattening and unhealthy, in order to compete with the competition. Others day that the potential to become obese may be part of a persons genetic makeup, but this theory does not explain why obesity has just recently become such a significant health problem, especially in children. Health experts have no doubt in their mind that in most cases, childhood obesity is caused indirectly by excessive television consumption. Children tend to snack while they are watching a TV show, without comprehending that they are not really hungry, and this becomes a habit. They are also constantly being bombarded with advertisements promoting unhealthy foods such as fast food, chips, soda, and other high calorie snacks. These unhealthy choices eventually become their preference. According to a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids watch about twenty-eight hours of televised programming a week. (http://www.education.com/reference/article/media-influence-children) Those twenty-eight hours are hours that the child could instead be doing homework, playing sports, or excersising. Studies have shown that decreasing the amount of TV kids watched led to less weight gain and lower body mass index. Considering these factors, it is not a mystery why children who watch more TV, have a higher risk of becoming obese.
There are several medical conditions, that have been proven to be caused by excessive television watching. Several different medical studies have shown that long periods of television consumption may affect the development of the pre-frontal cortex, the section of the brain that is responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention. This is believed to be the explanation of increasing cases of attention deficit disorder. Also, children who spend their days watching television or substituting their opportunity to read which develops language skills, or to have their parents read aloud to them, which improves their comprehension skills. These are just a few of the many negative tolls that excessive television and media consumption can have on a child's development.
A study was conducted by an education professor to try to pinpoint just how much television consumption is "too much." Linda Pagani followed 1,300 children for over seven years, measuring the amount of TV the kids watched at age two and a half, and again at age four and a half. They were able to link how much television they were watching with their scholastic performance by asking their teachers to asses their development. Pagani used the assessments from the teachers to conclude that each additional hour spent in front of the TV per week at age two and a half corresponded to a seven percent decrease in classroom engagement, a six percent decrease in overall math achievement, and a ten percent increase in being bullied by peers. "These findings suggest that kids who watch too much TV are "learning to be just a passive receptacle," Pagani says.(http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2212/Media-Influence-on-Children.html)
Although almost all health and behavioral health experts agree that television consumption has more negative effects then positive effects, they have developed strategies to practice healthy television consumption habits. One suggestion is to only allow the child to watch an approved DVD or a TV show prerecorded on the DVR when a parent is not present to monitor what they are viewing. Children will often mindlessly watch TV, strictly out of boredom. They may not realize what other activities they might otherwise be participating in, so it important for the parent to often give the child some alternate ideas. Last but most importantly, the parent must be sure that these TV rules are clearly laid out and being followed. The parent must make a solid point that watching television is a privilege, an if the rules are abused, they will be provoked. With these healthy habits being practiced, it is easy for a child to enjoy the pastime of watching television, without it harming their well-being.