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Facts and TV Statistics “It’s Just Harmless Entertainment” Oh really?

    • A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 75% of the 1,505 adults polled from March 17-21 would like to see tighter enforcement of government rules on broadcast content, particularly when children are most likely to be watching; 60% want broadcast TV indecency standards extended to cable TV; and 69% want higher fines for media companies.
    • In a recent (03.20.05) Time Magazine Poll 53 percent of respondents said that they think the FCC should place stricter controls on broadcast-channel shows depicting sex and violence. 68 percent believe the entertainment industry has lost touch with viewers’ moral standards. 66 percent said there is too much violence on open-air TV, 58 percent said too much cursing and 50 percent said there is too much sexual content on TV. 49 percent say FCC regulation should be extended to cover basic cable.
    • ABC’s Desperate Housewives is the most popular broadcast-network television show with kids aged 9-12 according to Nielsen stats. It airs at 10/9. (Jan. 05)
  • According to Nielsen the top TV shows for 12-17 year old girls were: American Idol, The O.C., Will & Grace, and One Tree Hill. The top TV shows for 12-17 year old boys were: The Simpsons, Malcolm, and The O.C.
  • 2004 Super Bowl: Nielsen estimates that 6.6 million kids 2-11 were watching at about the time that CBS’s little halftime fiasco developed when Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s bodice, exposing her right breast to the nationwide audience. Another 7.3 million teens 12-17 were tuned in at that time as well.
  • On December 10th, 2003, Fox failed to bleep the f-word and the s-word during the Billboard Music Awards.

    # of 2-11 yr olds Watching = Over 1 million

    # of 12-17 yr olds Watching = Over 1 Million

    These two groups comprised more than 20% of the total viewing audience.

  • Estimated number of TV homes: 109.6 million
  • Average time kids spend watching TV each day: 4 Hours
  • Children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep. – Huston and Wright, University of Kansas.  “Television and Socialization of Young Children.”
  • 54% of kids have a TV in their bedroom. – Ibid
  • 44% of kids say they watch something different when they’re alone than with their parents (25% choose MTV)
  • 66% of children (ages 10 to 16) surveyed say that their peers are influenced by TV shows
  • 62% say that sex on TV shows and movies influences kids to have sex when they are too young
  • 77% say there is too much sex before marriage on television
  • 65% say that shows like The Simpsons and Married… With Children encourage kids to disrespect parents.
  • Witnessing repeated violent acts can lead to desensitization and a lack of empathy for human suffering
  • Television alone is responsible for 10% of youth violence. – Leonard Eron, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Michigan
  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, “The debate is over… For the last three decades, the one predominant finding in research on the mass media is that exposure to media portrayals of violence increases aggressive behavior in children.”
  • A majority of parents say they are “very” concerned about the amount of sex (60%) and violence (53%) their children are exposed to on TV. After being read arguments on both sides of the issue, nearly two-thirds of parents (63%) say they favor new regulations to limit the amount of sex and violence in TV shows during the early evening hours, when children are most likely to be watching (35% are opposed). – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • A majority (55%) of parents say ratings should be displayed more prominently and 57% say they’d rather keep the current rating systems than switch to a single rating for TV, movies, video games, and music (34% favor the single rating). – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • About half (52%) of all parents say most TV shows are rated accurately, while about four in ten (39%) say most are not. – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • Many parents don’t understand what the various ratings guidelines mean. For example, 28% of parents of young children (2-6 years old) know what the rating TV-Y7 means (directed to children age 7 and older) while 13% think it means the opposite (directed to children under 7); and only 12% know that the rating FV (“fantasy violence”) is related to violent content, while 8% think it means “family viewing.” – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • Fifteen percent of all parents have used the V-Chip, which was required to be included in all TV sets over 13 inches after January 2000; one in four (26%) haven’t bought a new TV since then, 39% have bought a new TV, but don’t think it includes a V-Chip, and 20% know they have a V-Chip, but haven’t used it. Among those who have a V-Chip and know it, 42% have used it. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of parents who have used the V-Chip say they found it “very” useful. – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • When read the competing arguments for subjecting cable TV to the same content standards as broadcasters, half of all parents (52%) say that cable should be treated the same, while 43% say it should not. – Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/23/04.
  • A study of 1792 adolescents ages 12-17 showed that watching sex on TV influences teens to have sex. Youths who watched more sexual content where more likely to initiate intercourse and progress to more advanced noncoital sexual activities in the year following the beginning of the study. Youths in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile. Basically, kids with higher exposure to sex on TV were almost twice as likely than kids with lower exposure to initiate sexual intercourse. – Study Conducted by RAND and published in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics.
  • 46% of high school students in the United States have had sexual intercourse. Although sex is common, most sexually active teens wish they had waited longer to have sex, which suggest that sex is occurring before youths are prepared for its consequences. 1 case of an STD is diagnosed for every 4 sexually active teens.
  • In a sample of programming from the 2001-2002 TV season, sexual content appeared in 64% of all TV programs. Those programs with sexually related material had an average of 4.4 scenes per hour. Talk of sex is more frequent (61%) vs. overt portrayals (32%). 1 out of every 7 programs includes a portrayal of sexual intercourse.
  • Portrayals that included sexual risks (stds or becoming pregnant), abstinence or need for sexual safety was depicted in 15% of the shows with sexual content. Hence, sexual content on TV is more likely to promote sexual activity among US adolescents that it is to discourage it.
  • Factors positively associated with initiation of intercourse among virgins are: Watching Sex on TV, having older friends, getting low grades, engaging in deviant behavior. Positive factors for virgins to abstain are: parental monitoring, parent education, living with both parents, having parents who would disprove of adolescent sex, being religious, and having good mental health.
  • “In a recent national survey conducted by Nielsen (4/29/04), 78% of American families who had recently been part of the Nielsen ‘People Meter’ panel wanted more shows ‘without profanity or swear words.’
  • “In a national opinion poll conducted for TV Guide (8/2/03), 57% of TV viewers said they ‘noticed an increase in offensive material on television lately.'”
  • “In a national opinion poll conducted for Common Sense Media (“New Attempt to Monitor Media Content,” NY Times, 5/21/03), 64% of parents with at least one child between the ages of 2 and 17 believed media products in general were inappropriate for their families.  Only one in five parents ‘fully trusted’ the industry-controlled rating systems.
  • “In a national survey by Public Agenda (“Parents feel they’re failing to teach values,” USA TODAY, 10/30/02), ‘about 90% [of parents] say TV programs are getting worse every year because of bad language and adult themes in shows that air from 8 to 10 p.m.’
  • Over 1000 studies – including a Surgeon General’s special report in 1972 and a National Institute of Mental Health report 10 years later – attest to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. Studies show that the more “real-life” the violence portrayed, the greater the likelihood that it will be “learned.” American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Volume 95, Number 6 – June 1995
  • By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. – American Psychiatric Association
  • The average youth living in the U.S. watches television 25 hours a week and plays computer games an additional seven hours. – National Institute on Media and the Family, 1998 study
  • Media violence may cause aggressive and antisocial behavior, desensitize viewers to future violence and increase perceptions that they are living “in a mean and dangerous world.” – American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Children younger than 8 “cannot uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment… They quickly learn that violence is an acceptable solution to resolving even complex problems, particularly if the aggressor is the hero.” – ibid
  • “Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes.  The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we’ve built up a tolerance.  In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels… The television industry has gained its market share through an addictive and toxic ingredient.” – Lt. Col. David Grossman quoted in The Arizona Republic, May 27, 1999 by Tim Madigan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, A18.
  • Two overviews of existing studies conducted by the Surgeon General’s office in 1972 and 1982 called television violence “a contributing factor to increases in violent crime and antisocial behavior.” – May 9, 1999.  The New York Times.  Lawrie Mifflin. “Many Researchers Say Link is Already Clear on Media and Youth Violence.”
  • “Not every child who watches a lot of violence or plays a lot of violent games will grow up to be violent.  Other forces must converge, as they did recently in Colorado.  But just as every cigarette increases the chance that someday you will get lung cancer, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child will behave more violently than they otherwise would.” – Ibid  Attributed to L. Rowell Huesmann of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
  • “A steady diet of violent content over time creates a culture that tells kids that violence is the accepted way we solve our problems.” – Ibid – Attributed to Kathryn C. Montgomery, President of the Center for Media Education.
  • Television violence can lead to imitation
  • The cumulative impact of violence-laden imagery can lead to a “mean-world” perspective, in which viewers have an unrealistically dark view of life. – The Christian Science Monitor, November 18, 1996
  • Television reaches children at a younger age and for more time than any other socializing institution except the family. – Ibid
  • Research has shown that “mindless” television or video games may idle and impoverish the development of the pre-frontal cortex, or that portion of the brain that is responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention. – American Academy of Pediatrics – Understanding TV’s effects on the developing brain, Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.  (From May 1998 AAP News)
  • Children often behave differently after they’ve been watching violent programs on television.  Children who watched violent shows were more likely to strike out at playmates, argue, disobey authority and were less willing to wait for things that children who watched nonviolent programs. – American Psychological Association, Family and Relationships -Get the Facts: Children and Television Violence
  • Reducing the amount of time grade-school children spend watching television games and watching television can make them less aggressive toward their peers. – Stanford Report, January 14, 2001 -Limiting TV viewing reduces aggression in children, study says by Krista Conger
  • In considering decisions about contraceptives, STDs and sexual health choices, teens are almost as likely to get their information from TV (60%) as from a health care provider (62%). – Kaiser Family Foundation, 5/23/01
  • 86% of Britons feel their government should step in to regulate sexually explicit television and magazine images aimed at children, according to a BBC poll of more than 1,000 people. While the strongest support came from 55- to 64-year-olds (92%), a surprising 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds also believe tougher restrictions are necessary to discourage adolescent sex. Britain is currently experiencing a surge in STDs (up 57 percent from 1995) and HIV cases (up 20 percent from last year), along with a rising rate of teenage pregnancies. [, 9/7/04 stats]


Other Research Resources


Media cited for showing girls as sex objects

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health, a new report by the American Psychological Association says.

The report, released Monday, analyzed some 300 studies over the past 18 months. It included a variety of media, from television and movies to song lyrics, and looked at advertising showing body-baring doll clothes for pre-schoolers, tweens posing in suggestive ways in magazines and the sexual antics of young celebrity role models.

The researchers found such images may make girls think of and treat their own bodies as sexual objects.

“The preponderance of evidence suggests a cause for concern in these sexualized images and the mental health outcomes for girls,” says task force member Tomi-Ann Roberts, a psychology professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

Individual studies have found problems related to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression, but Roberts says there hasn’t been a body of work that illustrates how these problems are “directly linked” to sexualized images in ads and popular media. The group recommends more research on girls since the bulk of the studies reviewed dealt with teens and young women.

“It’s fair to say, were we to do these same studies on younger girls, you would expect to find the same results, but we have to do the studies,” says Sharon Lamb, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., who served on the task force.

The panel defined sexualization as occurring “when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.”

The report cites Bratz dolls, in particular, for “sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas.”

“Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girls or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality,” the report says.

Isaac Larian, CEO of Bratz doll manufacturer MGA Entertainment, based in Van Nuys, Calif., says he “adamantly disagrees” with the report’s assessment of the dolls. The company has sold more than 125 million worldwide in the seven years the dolls have been on the market, he says.

“These are the clothes that are worn if you go to schools anywhere in the USA,” Larian, a father of three, says. “They are not sexy. Bratz dolls are caricatural plastic dolls. They don’t even look like real human beings. They’re cartoonish.”

The report also notes another toymaker dropped plans to release a line of dolls modeled after the Pussycat Dolls (a musical group known for revealing costumes and sexy lyrics) following a campaign last year against the planned dolls.

Ann Pellegrini, an associate professor at New York University who writes about the sexual politics of American childhood, and who was not associated with the report, says she is concerned about what she calls “the panic” about the sexualization of children.

“Not that I would deny there is this aggressive marketing to children, but there is a deep moralization around it,” she says. “I do think girls and women are still profoundly objectified when it comes to sex, but there may well be some things that look like objectification that are being experienced by girls and young women that feel empowering.”

She says someone of an older generation might view today’s teen-age fashions as too-revealing, but the teen may not see being proud of her body as objectification at all.

The task force urges parents, school personnel and health care professionals to counter sexualization with images of girls in settings that are not viewed as sexual.

Evening Media Use Affects Sleep in Children

(HealthDay News) — Evening media or daytime violent media use may increase sleep problems in preschool-aged children, but nonviolent daytime media use does not, according to a study published online June 27 in Pediatrics.

Michelle M. Garrison, Ph.D., from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and colleagues analyzed the impact of media content, timing, and use behaviors on sleep in 612 children, aged 3 to 5 years. Data on sleep measures were collected using the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire. Data on media use, including content titles, were recorded in media diaries, and titles were coded for ratings, violence, scariness, and pacing.

The investigators identified an average daily screen time of 72.9 minutes, of which 14.1 minutes occurred after 7 p.m. Children with a television in their bedroom had increased media consumption and a greater likelihood of sleep problems, with at least one sleep problem reported by 18 percent of parents. Each additional hour of evening media use or daytime use of media with violent content was associated with significantly increased sleep problem scores. Having a television in the bedroom and low-income was associated with a trend toward greater impact of daytime violent media use.

“We found that evening media use and daytime violent media use were both associated with increased sleep problems, but daytime nonviolent media use was not,” the authors write.

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3 Ways Electronic Media Harm Kids’ Health and 3 Ways They Can Help

Given that children now spend more than seven hours a day with their TV’s, computers, cellphones, and other electronic media—more time than they spend in school and more than many of them sleep—we parents have got to get smart about our children’s media use and how it affects their physical and mental health, and we need to develop a family strategy for managing media. Good luck figuring that out from the research, which is confusing and incomplete. For instance, the health effects of cellphones have been barely studied, despite the fact that most teens seem to text more than they breathe. But there’s some help in a new article in Pediatrics, which evaluates the state of the science and lays out the good and bad.

“Most parents are clueless,” says Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico, who led the study. “They have no idea about media effects. They probably have no idea what their children are watching. Parents need to understand that media can have an impact on everything they’re concerned about with their children’s health and development: school performance, learning disabilities, sex, drugs, aggressive behavior.”

[Consider: Do kids learn better online?]

Sad to say, but I think Strasburger is right. We parents work hard to protect our children from harm, but we often think nothing of taking grade schoolers to an R-rated movie or letting middle schoolers play violent video games like Halo for hours on end. We’re trying to cut the junk food out of their diets while letting them gorge on junk media.

Wondering where to start in getting control of your children’s media diet? Here are three aspects of electronic media that have the worst impact on children’s health, based on my conversation with Strasburger and the available research:

1. TVs and computers in kids’ bedrooms. Two thirds of children have a TV in their bedroom, which doubles his or her risk of smoking and increases the risk of becoming overweight by one third. Kids with bedroom TVs also get less sleep and spend less time reading and doing hobbies. Strasburger says: “Get the TV or Internet connection out of your child’s bedroom, because you have no control.”

2. TV watching by small children. TV does nothing to help the intellectual or social development of children under age 2, despite the heavy marketing of “educational” programs for them. Moreover, a half-dozen studies have correlated TV in the early years with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no TV before age 2. Still, 70 percent of babies do.

3. Violent media and children of all ages. Hundreds of studies have found that on-screen violence makes children more aggressive, anxious, and fearful, more likely to see violence as a justified means of problem-solving, and desensitized to the consequences of violence. This is particularly true for children under age 8, but violent videos and music aren’t doing teenagers any good, either. Exposure to drinking, smoking, and sex on the screen can make risky behaviors seem normal and have been correlated with riskier behaviors. Here’s a chance for us parents to get aggressive in a good way and put our feet down about violence and risky behavior on screen.

Perhaps not surprisingly, electronic media’s influence on children isn’t all bad. There are extraordinary things to see and share, and parents who make wise media choices for their family are also teaching their children to be savvy media consumers. Here are three ways your family can gain when the media diet is healthful:

1. Through meaningful storytelling. Quality media can help teach essential human values through storytelling, a powerful learning tool. A great movie or TV show (think Up or Sesame Street) can provide your children lasting lessons on growing up to be good, kind, and wise. Check out sites like KidsFirst and Common Sense Media for reviews of movies and video games.

2. By gaining advertisement literacy. Children younger than age 8 have difficulty understanding that advertisements are designed to persuade them, but older children can become savvy consumers by learning how media are used to manipulate thoughts and emotions. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia require that children be taught “media literacy,” and research has shown that it may help mitigate the harmful effects of media.

3. To inspire talks about difficult issues. Watching TV or playing computer games with your children not only helps you understand their interests but provides a great opportunity for teaching your own values. Strasburger says he watches Lost and other TV shows with his 17-year-old daughter. “A character on TV is having sex with his girlfriend. It’s easy to say, ‘What do you think about that?’ rather than say, ‘Are you having sex?’ It’s a really powerful way of communicating with your teenagers,” he says.

So the good news for parents is that we do have choices: There are healthful ways for children to use media, and we can exert control over what they watch and for how long. We’re in the midst of a massive experiment, and it’s up to us to create a sensible balance between media and the other essentials of life.

Social Media Has Good and Bad Effects on Kids: Experts



By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) — Social media Web sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become nearly inescapable facets of modern life, particularly for kids. And a new report suggests they can have real benefits and risks for children.

These sites, and virtual gaming worlds, allow users to interact with each other and they are where children and adolescents are spending a lot, if not most, of their free time, according to a report on the impact of social media just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report, published online March 28 in Pediatrics, says that more than half of adolescents log on to a social media Web site at least once a day, and nearly one-quarter of teens say they log on to their favorite social media sites 10 or more times each day.

So, what kind of an impact is all that time spent fraternizing over technology instead of in person having on today’s youth?

“Social media sites are mostly good. They’re where kids socialize and where they connect together today,” said report author Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, CEO and editor-in-chief of Pediatrics Now. “Kids’ social spaces are shrinking. They don’t have the places or the time to hang out like their parents did. Social media allows them to have time to reconnect. But, it has to be done in a way that’s not all-encompassing,” O’Keeffe said.

“For this to happen, it works better if kids have parents that they can engage with. The best rule of thumb is to be ‘friends’ with your child on Facebook. If a kid won’t friend a parent, it’s usually a sign that something’s not right,” she cautioned.

“Just like most people wouldn’t let kids cook in the kitchen or drive a car without first teaching them, kids need to know how Facebook works and how to be on it appropriately. Don’t assume that your kid knows all these things,” she said.

Younger children may try to lie about their age to get on to sites, like Facebook, that have strict age limits, said O’Keeffe. She said parents shouldn’t condone this. “Facebook is geared toward teen age and up. There are ads and content on the site for an older group. Normally, you wouldn’t let your 11-year-old hang out with 16-year-olds. Plus, if you let younger kids on these sites, you’re teaching them that it’s OK to lie.”

The report found that social media encourage kids to connect with each other and to express their creativity. They also provide an opportunity for learning, and are a way for teens to access health information. And, kids that have chronic illnesses can find others with their condition and get support they might not otherwise have access to.

But, these sites are not without risk, according to the report. One of the biggest risks is cyberbullying and online harassment.

“Technology is an extension of what goes on in the real world. Bullying was around before the Internet, but cyberbullying makes it easier,” explained Dr. Brian Primack, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Primack also noted that children are hardwired to experiment and push boundaries. Today’s technology may just make that easier. Primack pointed out that “sexting” is a good example of this. Sexting is defined as “sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs or images via cell phone, computer or other digital devices,” according to the report.

“Kids have always wanted to look at nude pictures, and today, taking and sending a picture can be done in a second,” Primack said, adding that such pictures could come back to haunt children years later.

“We need more technology infrastructure, and pediatricians need to be ready to intervene and help educate young people and their parents on how to be more media literate, and how they can evaluate the types of things they’re exposed to,” said Primack.

Another potential risk of social media has been dubbed “Facebook depression.” When preteens and teens spend too much time on social media sites, they may begin to show classic signs of depression, such as changing sleep and eating habits, experiencing mood swings, hanging out with different friends or becoming socially isolated, according to O’Keeffe.


A mounting body of research is showing that kids’ media use may be linked to their weight, partly because the sedentary act of watching television and movies or playing on computers and mobile devices can displace other activities that burn more calories.

But too much media exposure can also affect children’s weight in other ways, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media.” The statement appears in the July 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online June 27).

According to the statement, ads for junk food and fast food increase kids’ desire for these foods. Studies also have shown that snacking increases while watching TV or movies. And late-night screen time can interfere with sleep, which puts kids at higher risk for obesity.

“We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and inactivity,” said the statement’s lead author, Victor Strasburger, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media. “American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep.”

The statement contains recommendations to help pediatricians mitigate the effects of media on children’s and teens’ body weight, including:

  • Encourage parents to discuss food advertising with their children as they monitor children’s TV viewing and teach them about good nutrition.
  • Continue to counsel parents to limit total, non-educational screen time to no more than two hours per day, and avoid putting TV sets and Internet connections in children’s bedrooms.
  • Work with community groups and schools to implement media education programs in classrooms, child care centers and community centers.
  • Be aware that children with high levels of screen time also have more stress, putting them at risk not only for obesity but for a number of other conditions such as diabetes, mood disorders and asthma.

The policy also recommends that pediatricians work with other child health advocates at the local, state and national levels for:

  • a ban on junk food advertising;
  • restrictions on interactive food advertising to children via digital media;
  • funding for research into the health and psychosocial effects of heavy media use in children; and
  • more prosocial media platforms and resources for children that encourage them to choose healthy foods.

“Thirty years ago, the federal government ruled that young children are psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food,” said Dr. Strasburger.

The AAP has long recommended that pediatricians ask two questions about media use at each well-child (or well-adolescent) visit: How much time is the child spending on screens each day? And is there a TV set or Internet connection in the child’s bedroom?

“Having the conversation around these two questions can go a long way toward a thoughtful approach to each family’s – and each child’s – media use, and that can quickly translate into healthier choices and healthier weight,” Dr. Strasburger said.

The effects of media on American society

n my opinion, the media has a strong influence on society, both negatively and positively. How could it not have an influence, even if it’s to provoke thought? The media is all around us and what surrounds us, will have an effect in some manner.

I feel the negative effects are stronger because of the “consistency” used to pound this negativity into society’s mind. It isn’t necessary to use a hot babe in skimpy attire to sell a hamburger, but I’ve seen it done and in commercials for “family” restaurants. Sex is used to sell anything and everything and in that respect, it sends a negative message all around. Gone are the days when it was a shock to see an undergarment in a commercial. Now it’s nothing to see the undergarments attached to live models. How many people do you think are actually looking at the undergarments instead of the body parts?

How often do you see overweight women on tv, music videos or in any scene that represents a desirable woman? It’s rare and it sends a message that women have to be a certain weight, have a certain look in order to be seen as desirable, to be “somebody”. That is a negative message. The media, in the form of tv and movies, doesn’t represent the world as a whole. It often focuses on a single sector that influences what is to be accepted. Some are influenced so strongly that they will do anything to live up to the expectations, from developing eating disorders to multiple plastic surgeries.

I’ve witnessed the influence music videos have on teens. I’ve heard the young boys talk about the female artists and how hot they are and what they’d like to do to them. I’ve seen the young girls striving to look like them so the boys will give them the same attention. I’ve seen teens totally change their conservative attire to freaky after finding out it’s cool to look like certain music artists. Many change their actions and language to mimic these influences.

Casual sex is seen as very normal in movies and tv. It’s cool…”everybody’s doing it” – not much different than in society. Sex has become recreational for many and the media’s influence doesn’t help to think otherwise. The message that is being sent can have dire consequences such as STD’s and unplanned pregnancy.

On the flip side…there are good influences via the media. When a catastrophe strikes such as hurricane Katrina, people are seen reaching out to help others. The tv show “Extreme Home Makeover” is a great example of how strangers pull to together to help those less fortunate. Influences such as these can provoke the thought for people to help more in their community before catastrophe strikes, to be more giving all around.

The media may be an influence, but each person has free will. They can follow the influence of the media or create their own path. Parents have the choice in teaching their children appropriateness and steering them away from harmful influences. If children don’t have good role models, they may lean more towards the media for influence. Parents have to set healthy examples early on and be involved in their children’s lives enough to know what is influencing them both negatively or positively. As for adults…it’s pretty lame to follow a path just because the media tells you that’s the way to go. Think for yourself, define yourself as somebody, regardless of the influences around you.

The media will always be an influence, but it can’t control us unless we hand it over control. In essence, there’s a vast difference between influence and control. The media can be a good thing – it’s your choice in how you use it.

182161_m Learn more about this author, Kathy D.