Media and Health

Would you be surprised to learn that increased media exposure is associated with higher rates of obesity, smoking, sexual activity, drug and alcohol use among young people?

A recent report from the National Institutes of Health analyzed 173 previous studies in a first-of-its-kind analysis. A New York Times article summarized the report this way:

In a clear majority of those studies more time with television, films, video games, magazines, music and the Internet was linked to rises in childhood obesity, tobacco use and sexual behavior. A majority also showed strong correlations — what the researchers deemed “statistically significant associations” — with drug and alcohol use and low academic achievement.

The evidence was somewhat less indicative of a relationship between media exposure and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the seventh health outcome that was studied.

The report quoted one of the lead researchers as follows: “The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age.”

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