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Positive and Negative Effects of Media on Children’s Health

By: Rosa Rios

Have you wondered where your child is learning such odd information or modeling unusual behaviors? Most parents might consider that media does not impacts the health of their children. Research shows that kids between 8 to 10 years old spend an average of 8.5 hours per day with a variety of media including television programs, online searching, social websites, and video games among others. In other words, your children are immersed in media the same amount of hours as you are working a full-time job.

What is your kid learning in social media or television? Is this information molding his or her behavior and attitudes? Is this information good or bad? The American Academy of Pediatrics explained that children learn from media, especially if messages are repeated continuously over long periods. A British psychologist, Albert Bandura, identified the typical learning process in children. Dr. Bandura stated that children learn from modeling behaviors and imitation. In other words, your child will imitate what he or she sees and what others do around him or her.

Media Impacts Children’s Health and Development 

A meta-analysis showed the causative relationship between media use, body fat, and physical activity. The study found that children who spend more time on any media are more obese and perform fewer physical activities. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published that more than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are obese or overweight. Obesity can lead to poor child development, poor grades at school, early onset of diabetes and high blood pressure, knee problems, back pain, obstructive sleep apnea, lung problems, depression, and anxiety disorders among others.

The Dark Side of Media

Media also exposes children to violence, sexual and substance abuse messages. In fact, a young child is exposed to sexual messages more than 14,000 times per year. Without parental control and support, these children have the risk to misunderstand these messages. The American Academy of Pediatrics mentioned that more than 1,000 scientific studies have suggested that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior and produces violence desensitization.

The Bright Side of Media

On the other hand, The American Academy of Pediatrics also mentioned that media also has a positive impact on children. For example, the “Sesame Street” T.V. program helps children learn numbers, colors, and letters. Another program, the “Wonder Pets” can teach children empathy and tolerance. Social media websites can encourage teens to interact with peers or find support in social groups. The use of social media can also increase access to information related to health and wellness. Media keeps families updated about changing trends on the social world.

How Should Parents Use Media?

Parents should participate in the selection of media for their children, and rigorously monitor the access to information online. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children should not be exposed to screen media before two years of age. Moreover, parents should limit the media exposure to less than two hours a day, avoid placement of T.V. in children’s room, monitor online access, accompany children when watching media, and finally become a role model for establishing a family plan for media use.  It is important to consider that electronic devices and media are part of our daily life. Parents should find a balance between media, family, and work time. Encouraging your kids to model your behavior towards media is a good way to star.