Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Late breaking news - Too much media exposure is bad for children

Google News had several dozen links to articles about a recent study which found that too much media exposure is bad for children. This was a study of 173 studies done over the last thirty years.

At one level it is nice to read this, but at another level I'm thinking didn't we hear this in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s? At some point will most parents ever get it?

Reuters reports:

The studies offered strong evidence that children who get more media exposure are more likely to become obese, start smoking and begin earlier sexual activity than those who spend less time in front of a screen, the researchers said.

EfluxMedia has a scary statistic on how much exposure:

Just to make an idea about how serious the situation is, the study found that the average modern child spends nearly 45 hours a week with television, movies, magazines, music, the Internet, cellphones and video games. By comparison, children spend 17 hours a week with their parents on average and 30 hours a week in school.

Wow. Wow!

We have a few friends who gave up their television. At times I wonder if that is the smart move. We've limited our television watching to an hour or so a day. We don't have cable, because if we did we'd probably watch more, much more.

Update I - 2 Dec 08
I've tracked down an online summary of the study - Media + Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review.

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Luke said...

I agree that kids should be more active. But this raises a few questions in my mind:

How much is "too much"? What is the optimal amount of media exposure? What is acceptable?

What other factors are playing into this? Is it cause and effect, or merely correlation?

And what is "media"? Does this include the bookworms who sit around reading all day? Why, or why not?

Interesting stuff, but I have problem when people point the finger at computers (but I'm okay with people demonizing TV [laughing]).


Dana said...

Ooh, I think I agree with Luke. I've written about being cautious w/ media in the past and agree that we're oversaturated.

But I still want to know if it is really the media causing the smoking, etc., or the fact that parents who care enough to set limits on media are probably more involved over all? We don't know what the stats are measuring and whether it is causative or just one more symptom of a deeper issue in our families.

Cat said...

Not having a TV doesn't mean no exposure to media. For us, it means we get to avoid in-your-face, loud advertisements targeting us and our children. We have a computer on a small entertainment center in our living room. We watch many videos from the library (including some TV series) and use the computer throughout the day for news and fun, educational websites for our children. This setup is working out extremely well for us.

Henry Cate said...

Luke - you ask some great questions. I think there is a huge difference between hours of mindless sitcoms, and watching something more intellectually challenging like Columbo. My understanding of the study was that "media" did not include books. Part of it is that when watching television the brain is less active then when sleeping. For a number of reasons reading is more stimulating.

Dana - A councilor once told me that most things in human relationships have like fifty causes. Like Eliot's poem about the many names a cat has in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, there are the public reasons we are willing to talk about and the private ones that we keep to ourselves. My believe is that watching dozens of hours a week of television is a sign of a deeper problem, but that it contributes to creating more problems, like less ambition.

Cat - good point. Media is not inherently good or evil. It is a tool. Like Humpty Dumpty says the question is "Who is the master." As parents we need to be careful about how much and the type of media our children are exposed to.