If parents don’t know that plonking little children down in front of the television or letting older ones play video games for hours on end is bad for them, it’s not for want of research on the subject. An American team found almost 1800 studies conducted since 1980 on the effects of media consumption on children. From those, they selected 173 that met certain criteria, including that they controlled for variables such as the socio-economic status of children.
In a clear majority of those studies, more time with TV, films, video games, magazines, music and the internet was linked to rises in childhood obesity, tobacco use and sexual behaviour. A majority also showed strong correlations with drug and alcohol use and low academic achievement. There was a weaker link with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and a non-profit, Common Sense Media, whose CEO, Jim Steyer, sums up the message: “The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or 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 and others want the government to intervene to promote media education and more responsible behaviour by industry. They should have a fighting chance as one of the people involved is Ezekiel J Emanuel, chairman of the bioethics department at the NIH’s clinical centre and brother of Rham Emanuel, the president-elect’s chief of staff. ~ New York Times, Dec 2