Media influence on children has steadily increased as new and more sophisticated types of media have been developed. It can be a powerful entertainment and education tool given the right programming.
Beneficial effects include early readiness for learning, educational enrichment, opportunities to view or participate in discussions of social issues, exposure to the arts through music and performance, and entertainment.
However, studies have shown that media can also have a very negative influence. The studies indicate that media can shorten attention span, distort body image, lead to obesity, create fear, and increase aggressive and anti-social behaviors if exposure is unmonitored and unlimited. The influence of media on children extends to health-related issues. Although the media has the power to educate on nutrition, exercise, and a wide variety of health –related issues , it can also be a negative force through images and advertisements which influence viewers to make poor food choices or to overeat. In addition, excessive television viewing can result in inactivity which further contributes to excessive weight gain and poor fitness levels.
Children are specifically targeted by some advertisements and are vulnerable to their influence. Adults must assist children in questioning and thinking critically about the messages they see on TV. Television is also blamed for children being unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Media exposure takes time away from important social interactions, such as conversation, storytelling, imaginative play, and for primary- school children the leisure reading that improves language learning skills.
We must remember, however, that the amount of viewing, the kind of programmes watched, IQ, and socioeconomic status are all factors that affect children’s attitude and achievement.