Media Friend or Foe? Current research and suggestions for pediatricians

May 3, 2008

This year’s presentation on the media and children played to an overflow audience. Victor C Strasburger, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM, highlighted what pediatricians already know about the impact of media on children and adolescents, and discussed some things they may not know and what they need to find out. Although there are many studies discussing the effect of the media on children’s attitudes and behavior, they are not found in pediatric journals.

This year’s presentation on the media and children played to an overflow audience. Victor C Strasburger, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM, highlighted what pediatricians already know about the impact of media on children and adolescents, and discussed some things they may not know and what they need to find out. Although there are many studies discussing the effect of the media on children’s attitudes and behavior, they are not found in pediatric journals.

Seventy per cent of children under the age of 2 are still watching TV. Recent studies have shown that babies exposed to videos may suffer from language delays. Infants respond to stimuli but their brain development is not complete. If there is human interaction, babies will learn so as a result many of the companies selling videos to babies have changed their promos to include parent interaction.

Young people, 8-18 years, spend 6 hours a day with media including TV, Internet, and video games. They avoid parental oversight and their parents generally do not take control of what they are watching, playing with via the media.

TV influences sexual behaviors, promotes violence and affects beliefs, toy choices and food choices. Money spent annually on ads is $250 billion. The average child views 40,000 ads per year. Children spend more on videogames than what is spent on college tuition.

Dr Strasburger urges pediatricians to ask two questions when children come in for office visits.

1. How much time per day is your child spending on the Internet and watching TV?
2. Is there a TV in your child’s bedroom?
Pediatricians need to tell parents that if there is a TV in the bedroom, it must come out of the bedroom and parents must control what they view with on the Internet. Parents need to know that pornography, and violent games that are easy to find on the Internet cannot be controlled-their child’s computer should be in a public area.
Parents must also take responsibility for their child’s sex education as most schools do not really teach sex education, and they are inundated with the wrong sex messages on TV, in print and on the Internet. Parents need to take control and communicate guidelines.