Effect of Electronic Media on Children

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PERSPECTIVE

Effect of Electronic Media on Children
MUNNI RAY AND KANA RAM JAT
From the Department of Pediatrics, Advanced Pediatric Center, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160 012, India. Correspondence to: Munni Ray, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Advanced Pediatric Center, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160 012, India. munniray1@yahoo.com

Radio, television (TV), movies, video games, cell phones, and computer networks have assumed central roles in our children’s daily lives. The media has demonstrated potentially profound effects, both positive and negative, on children’s cognitive, social, and behavioral development. Considering the increasing exposure of children to newer forms of media, we decided to review the current literature on the effects of media on child health both in the Western countries and India. It is widely accepted that media has profound influence on child health, including violence, obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, and risky sexual behaviors. Simultaneously, media may have some positive effects on child health. We need to find ways to optimize the role of media in our society, taking advantage of their positive attributes and minimizing their negative ones. We need to understand better how to reverse the negative impact of media and make it more positive. Key words: Media, Child, India.

ne of the notable changes in our social environment in the 21st century has been the saturation of our culture and daily lives by the mass media. Unfortunately, the consequences of one particular common element of the electronic mass media have a particularly detrimental effect on children’s well being. It is now not just kids in bad neighborhoods or with “bad” friends who are likely to be exposed to bad things when they go out on the street. A “virtual” bad street is easily available to most youth now in their very homes. MAGNITUDE OF MEDIA EXPOSURE In the United States (US) over 80% of adolescents own at least one form of new media technology (e.g., cell phone, personal data assistant, computer for Internet access), and they are using this technology with increasing frequency to text and instant message, e-mail, blog, and access social networking websites(1). A national Kaiser Family Foundation (US) survey found that children aged 8 to 18 years had an average media usage time of 6 hours and 21 INDIAN PEDIATRICS 561

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minutes daily(2). Total media exposure time for most of the children exceeded the time spent in all other activities except sleep. Although data from India is limited, a significant portion of our children also have considerable TV viewing per day i.e. >2 hours/day(3). EFFECT OF MEDIA ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS Effects of the mass media have been found to be farreaching and potentially harmful in influencing the health-related behaviors of children and adolescents, many of whom are not yet mature enough to distinguish fantasy from reality, particularly when it is presented as “real life.” This is particularly important for very young children who developmentally think concretely and are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. Furthermore, time spent with media decreases the amount of time available for pursuing other more healthy activities such as sports, physical activity, community service, cultural pursuits, and family time. VOLUME 47__JULY 17, 2010

RAY AND JAT MEDIA AND BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS Children, who observe (in the media or in the environment around them) others exhibiting a specific aggressive behavior, e.g. hitting, are more likely to perform the same aggressive behavior immediately. Exposure to media violence has been positively related to subsequent aggressive behavior, ideas, arousal, and anger. Additionally, there is a significant negative effect of exposure to violence on subsequent helping behavior. Infrequent exposure is not likely to produce lasting consequences, but...
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