Media Exposure

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Media Exposure

Mental Health
Media Exposure
Media Exposure
Find out how to handle the issue of your child's exposure to media.
InteliHealth Medical Content
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School
Media Exposure

Television and other media (movies, video games, computers and music) are deeply woven into the fabric of everyday life in many parts of the world. In fact, more families in the United States own televisions than own telephones.

Many media programs, songs and games are beneficial for children, with educational, creative, diverse and thought-provoking content. However, concerns also exist about the potential negative influence media can have on children. For example, increased television watching has been associated with childhood obesity and poor school performance. Media violence may increase aggressive behavior in some children, make some children less sensitive to violence, affect their schoolwork, and twist their view of the world. Recent studies suggest that middle-school-aged children who watch R-rated movies are more likely to try smoking or drinking. Even cartoons that are made for young children may contain acts of violence and references to tobacco and alcohol.

Children are impacted by media because they spend so much time exposed to it. Studies have shown that in a typical week, the average child between the ages of 2 and 7 years spends more than three hours per day watching television, playing video games, watching videos, using the computer and listening to music. Children between the ages of 8 and 18 years spend more than six hours per day, or 47 hours per week, the equivalent of a full-time job.

Parents and other caregivers can take steps to reduce the negative impact of media.

Limit total media time

Children older than 2 years of age should limit all media use to no more than one to two hours per day. Encourage your children to spend time every day doing other things, such as playing outside, reading books, writing letters and helping with household chores.

Select programs carefully

Before your child watches television or videos, at home or with another caretaker, first watch the program yourself to make sure it is appropriate for your child. Limit your child’s exposure to media that contain violence; adult language; adult themes; sex; or alcohol, tobacco or drug use.

Watch what they watch

Watch programs with your child and discuss them together. Talk about issues raised by the characters and point out ways in which your family values may differ from those expressed in the program. Teach your child how to look critically at advertisements. Do not allow televisions or computers in children’s bedrooms where you cannot monitor their use.

Be a good role model

Limit your own use of media. Choose programs carefully and turn the television off when you are not watching it. Record programs that contain adult content and watch them after your children are asleep. Support public television and other educational programming.

Last updated May 29, 2011

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