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Media the most influential factors on childrens growth

Telephone 613-526-9397, fax 613-526-3332, Web sites www. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. The influence of the media on the psychosocial development of children is profound. Not all television programs are bad, but data showing the negative effects of exposure to violence, inappropriate sexuality and offensive language are convincing 3. Still, physicians need to media the most influential factors on childrens growth continued research into the negative and positive effects of media on children and adolescents.

Current literature suggests the following: Canadian children watch excessive amounts of television 56. There is a relationship between watching violent television programming and an increase in violent behaviour by children 27. Excessive television watching contributes to the increased incidence of childhood obesity 89. Excessive television watching may have a deleterious effect on learning and academic performance 10.

Watching certain programs may encourage irresponsible sexual behaviour 11. Television is an effective way of advertising products to children of various ages 12. The average Canadian child watches nearly 14 h of television each week 13. Studies show how time spent watching television varies between different age groups and cultures 113. 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 14.

A substantial number of children begin watching television at an earlier age and in greater amounts than what experts recommend 15. As a result, with prolonged viewing, the world shown on television becomes the real world 12. Learning Television can be a powerful teacher 17. 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 programs stimulate visits to the zoo, libraries, bookstores, museums and other active recreational settings, and educational videos can certainly serve as powerful prosocial teaching devices. The educational value of Sesame Street, has been shown to improve the reading and learning skills of its viewers 18. In some disadvantaged settings, healthy television habits may actually be a beneficial teaching tool 17.

Still, watching television takes time away from reading and schoolwork. More recent and well-controlled studies show that even 1 h to 2 h of daily unsupervised television viewing by school-aged children has a significant deleterious effect on academic performance, especially reading 1019. Violence The amount of violence on television is on the rise 20. The average child sees 12,000 violent acts on television annually, including many depictions of murder and rape.

More than 1000 studies confirm that exposure to heavy doses of television violence increases aggressive behaviour, particularly in boys 221 — 23. Other studies link television or newspaper publicity of suicides to an increased suicide risk 24 — 28.

The following groups of children may be more vulnerable to violence on television: Nutrition 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 snack foods 9.

Television viewing makes a substantial contribution to obesity because prime time commercials promote unhealthy dietary practices 1529. The fat content of advertised products exceeds the current average Canadian diet and nutritional recommendations, and most food advertising is for high calorie foods such as fast foods, candy and presweetened cereals 1429. Media the most influential factors on childrens growth number of hours of television viewing also corresponds with an increased relative risk of higher cholesterol levels in children 8.


Television can also contribute to eating disorders in teenage girls, who may emulate the thin role models seen on television 8. Eating meals while watching television should be discouraged because it may lead to less meaningful communication and, arguably, poorer eating habits 2930.

Sexuality Today, television has become a leading sex educator in Canada. Sex between unmarried partners is shown 24 times more often than sex between spouses 32 — 35while 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. A detailed guide to responsible sexual content on television, and in films and music can be found in other peer-reviewed publications 35. Some people believe that the media can influence sexual responsibility by promoting birth control, such as condom use.

No current empirical evidence supports this concept; it is expected that the debate will continue. Convincing data suggest that advertising increases beer consumption 3437and in countries such as Sweden, a ban on alcohol advertising has led to a decline in alcohol consumption 38. Tobacco products are not advertised directly on television in Canada.

There is evidence that passive advertising, which glamorizes smoking 28has increased over the past few years. Television is not the only way that children learn about tobacco and alcohol use; the concern is that the consequences of these behaviours are not accurately depicted on television. One-half of the G-rated animated feature films available on videocassette, as well as many music videos, show alcohol and tobacco use as normative behaviour without conveying the long term consequences of this use 39.

In addition, although some health care professionals disagree about the health benefits of appropriate milk use, milk consumption has increased as a result of print and broadcast advertisements. The developmental stage of a child plays a role in the effect of commercials. Young children do not understand the concept of a sales pitch. They tend to believe what they are told and may even assume that they are deprived if media the most influential factors on childrens growth do not have advertised products.

A number of studies have documented that children under the age of eight years are developmentally unable to understand the difference between advertising and regular programming 124041. The average child sees more than 20,000 commercials each year 12. Cartoon programs based on toy products are especially attractive. Advertisements targeting adolescents are profoundly influential, particularly on cigarette use 4.

Media Effects on Children’s Social and Moral Development

The question of whether children are more resilient to the influence of television is debated frequently. Most studies show that the more time children spend watching television, the more they are influenced by it 4. Earlier studies have shown that boys may be more susceptible than girls to television violence 25. Education and parental involvement High school programs promoting media awareness have been shown to be beneficial 4. They give students more understanding of how the media may affect them socially.

In Canada, the Media Awareness Network has a number of resources that can be used by both professionals and the public to promote media literacy. Their resources are comprehensive, current and specifically applicable to Canadian culture 42. Parents may use ratings but they must be used with caution. Currently, there is no consensus as to which rating system works best 43. Parental involvement in determining desirable programming is the best choice.

If children are allowed to be exposed to these media without adult supervision, they may have the same deleterious effects as television. Males are more than three times as likely to be the aggressors; blacks were overrepresented and whites underrepresented.

Music videos may reinforce false stereotypes. Music lyrics have become increasingly explicit, particularly with references to sex, drugs and violence. Research linking a cause-and-effect relationship between explicit lyrics and adverse behavioural effects is still in progress at this time. Meanwhile, the potential negative impact of explicit music lyrics should put parents and paediatricians on guard — paediatricians should bring this up in anticipatory guidance discussions with teenagers and their parents.

At the very least, parents should take an active role in monitoring the music their children are exposed to 45. VIDEO GAMES Some video games media the most influential factors on childrens growth help the development of fine motor skills and coordination, but many of the concerns about the negative effects of television eg, inactivity, asocial behaviour and violence also apply to excessive exposure to video games.

Parents should be advised to familiarize themselves with various rating systems for video games and use this knowledge to make their decisions.

Impact of media use on children and youth

The effect of violent video games on children has been a public health concern for many years. No quantitative analysis of video game contents for games rated as suitable for all audiences was made until 2001 47. Therefore, current ratings of video games leave much room for improvement 43. These dangers must be unmasked and a wise parent will learn how to protect their children by immersing themselves in the medium and taking advice from the many resources aimed at protecting children while allowing them to reap the rich benefits in a safe environment.

The physician is in a good position to encourage parents and children to discover the Internet and to use it wisely. The Internet has a significant potential for providing children and youth with access to educational information, and can be compared with a huge home library. There are other concerns as well. Excessive amounts of time at a computer can contribute to obesity, undeveloped social skills and a form of addictive behaviour 9.

Although rare, some children with seizure disorders are more prone to attacks brought on by a flickering television or computer screen. No data suggest that television viewing causes weakness of the eyes. It may be different when a child is closely exposed to a computer screen for long periods, although there are no definitive references to support this.

Other concerns include pedophiles who use the Internet to lure young people into relationships. There is also the potential for children to be exposed to pornographic material. Parents can use technology that blocks access to pornography and sex talk on the Internet, but must be aware that this technology does not replace their supervision or guidance.

There is a media the most influential factors on childrens growth of information on coping with the vast resources of the Web, both good and bad. Above all, parents should be encouraged to appreciate that there is potential for more good than bad, as long as one has the knowledge to tell the difference. Canadian youth claim the Internet as a defining part of their culture and an integral part of their daily lives 6. Physicians and parents alike must be armed and ready to face that challenge and ensure that they reap the potential benefits as safely as possible Table 1.

Table 1 Benefits and risks of Internet use by children and youth Benefits of the Internet High degree of availability and affordability in most communities in the western world An asset for research or homework A communication tool for teachers and university professors with their students Rapid and inexpensive communication via e-mail and video linkage Access by the disabled to much that may otherwise be unavailable: Encouraging inappropriate weight loss and diets.

To read more on this, see www. They should also ask about video watching, use of video games, radio programs and time spent in front of the computer, especially when dealing with aggressive and particularly vulnerable children and families 7.

Physicians should become more familiar with the kinds of media to which their patients may be exposed, such as programs that portray irresponsible sex and violence, and questionable Internet sites. Physicians are encouraged to learn about the scope of Internet-related issues to adequately advise parents during their visits for anticipatory guidance.

The Media History Tool 51 can be used to identify areas of concern and to facilitate discussion with parents and children.