What You Need to Know About Media and Kids' Health

Young people spend more time using media—TV, movies, music, computers, Internet, cell phones, magazines, and video games—than engaging in any other single activity except sleep.

The media that children use and create are integral to their growing sense of themselves, of the world, and of how they should interact with it. These pervasive, persuasive influences have been linked to both negative health outcomes, such as smoking, obesity, sexual risk behaviors, eating disorders and poor body image, anxiety, and violence, and to positive outcomes, such as civil participation, positive social behavior, tolerance, school readiness, knowledge acquisition, and positive self-image. For any given child, which effects occur depends largely on the media’s content, the child’s age, the context in which the child uses media, the amount of media the child uses, and whether that use is active and critical.

Five Cs for Families

Control time.
Too much media use (more than 1-2 hours daily, depending on age) may be harmful for your child’s health and development.

Content matters.
All media are educational. Some teach accurate, healthful lessons, while others teach misleading and harmful lessons.

Context is important.
Where, when, how, why, and with whom young people use media strongly influence whether media enrich or harm them.

Critical thinking.
Teaching kids active, critical media use is essential for healthy development.

Create and model media mastery.
What we feed children’s minds is as important as what we feed their bodies. Teach children to develop a healthy media diet, and engage them in the process of thinking about the media they use, rather than passively consuming it.

CMCH is supported in part by the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, Comcast, Google, The Stuart Family Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, The Norlien Foundation, Cisco, and other generous donors.



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