In today's day and age, media is key in communicating and entertaining. Today's youth are one of the first generations to be growing up with such elaborate and invasive technology as advancements are being made every day. Children spend more time on media than they do any other activity besides sleeping. They spend an average at least seven hours on some form of media per day (Strasburger, et al.). Ninety-three percent of all youth are online in some form (Strasburger and Donnerstein) In children eight years and older, more than two hours per day is spent watching television alone (Strasburger, et al.). Although media can be good for children in moderation, many aspects of the media are having adverse effects. Children's use of media has been seen to cause negative effects on their health, sleep, and behavior.
During youth, the majority of development is occurring and it is key to provide adequate care and nurturing during their growth. The use of media during development has been seen to cause numerous different health problems from physical to mental. Media has now been linked to have an impact on the major obesity epidemic (Strasburger, et al). One study showed that children were five times more likely to become obese if they engage in television viewing for more than five hours per day ("Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents"). Food marketing is a known cause for this as most of the ads that children are seeing is for junk and fast food. They are not seeing the negative effects and they are being influenced by these glamorized ads. Children have been said to see between 4,400 and 7,600 ads for non-nutritional foods while watching television or browsing through social media (Strasburger and Donnerstein). Another reason for the link between media and obesity is due to the habit of eating while watching television. One scientist found that when watching television, our satiety cues are suppressed in which we no longer feel full and continue to eat. Media has also replaced the desire to exercise or play. So, while one is watching television and eating, they are lacking in physical exercise (Strasburger, et al). Television dinners and “TV/Movie snacks” have been on the rise as marketers as taking advantage of the opportunity and influencing consumers to eat and watch televisions as well. Media use has been seen to have an impact on brain development if introduced at an early age. Heavy television viewing has been associated with Attention Deficit Disorder. Excess use of media has been seen to have other health impacts on students like hypocholesteremia, hypertension, asthma, mood disorders, psychological distress, and depression (Strasburger and Donnerstein).
Mental health in youth has also been seen to be greatly affected by the media. The media has played a big part in self-image in youth. They are being exposed to unrealistic expectations of body image. Many media outlets are exposing men and women in ways that are almost impossible to achieve. They are glamorizing and glorifying body images that are unhealthy and unreal. This is leading to major dissatisfaction in the youth's perception of their own bodies. One study found that female readers who regularly read fashion and beauty magazines were much more likely to have distorted body images. After the introduction of American television shows and movies, the prevalence of eating disorders rose drastically. The internet is a terrible place for people struggling with body images as there are inappropriate websites and social media pages glorifying unhealthy ways and disorders. There are more than one-hundred sites on the internet that are supporting anorexia and even offering tips and advice on ways to purge, the least amount of calories to consume, and unhealthy exercise advice (Strasburger, et al). Alongside unhealthy body image, anxiety and depression have been a big problem in the youth due to their dissatisfaction of their own bodies. The use of media can easily be seen as having effects on today's youth health.
Sleep is very important for youth development. It is said that the kids need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Media has had a big impact on kids sleep, leading to more adverse effects. Media has been seen to cause a delayed bed time, resulting in less amount of sleep (Strasburger, et al). A leading cause of this is allowing children to have access to media in their bedrooms. Many children have access to media in their bedrooms, and often lacking in parental control. A parent may think their child is sleeping, when in reality he/she is wide awake on some form of media. This lack of sleep can result in daytime sleepiness. Insufficient sleep can have terrible side effects on children. These include: poor cognitive performance, poor mood immune function, increase of cardiovascular risk, and poor weight and metabolism function. Using media right before bed also places children at risk of having insufficient sleep. It can provoke emotional, psychological, or physiological arousal. An example of this can be if a child gets excited or scared from a video that they watched before going to bed, it can cause them to have issues sleeping, due to their emotions. Media can also affect people who already have sleeping disorders. If a person is having a hard time falling asleep, or wakes up in the night, they often look to media to occupy them instead of falling back asleep. This can make a disorder worse than it was. The bright light from screens can also play a role in disturbing one's circadian rhythms. (Levenson, et al.)
While insufficient sleep can cause behavior problems, media has been seen to have negative effects on a child's behavior. Media exposes youth to many mature concepts. Specifically, violence is very glamorized in television and video games. A study has shown that by the age of eighteen, children will have seen more than 200,000 acts of violence in media. Violence and aggression is made out to be humorous and acceptable in the media. More than half of all video games have some aspects of violent goals and let children act as violent aggressors. In video games, children can run around with military grade weapons in hopes to shoot as many innocent people as possible (Strasburger, et al). Violence in the media is justified in ways that they make it seem as if someone is doing good by causing harm, for example, a good guy killing a bad guy. The media is glamorizing guns and bad behavior. In a National Television Violence Study, more than 10,000 hours of television was observed and it was concluded that sixty-one percent of all the media watched contained some form of violence. Children's media contained the most violence as well. Our media is influencing our youth and teaching them that such violent and aggressive behavior is acceptable and “normal.” (Strasburger and Donnerstein)
Another mature concept that children are too regularly exposed too is sexual content. In a sample of 1,500 ten to seventeen year olds, it was found that more than half of them had been exposed to online pornography at some point. Children are being targeted in ways that pornographers will specifically get URL's that resemble many children's websites. It has been seen that children as young as fifth graders are participating in sexual behaviors like oral sex, sexual harassment, and curiosity towards peer's private parts. It has also been seen that children who were excessively exposed to sexual content were more likely to have more rapid sexual activity, greater risk for unplanned pregnancy, and were put at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases by the time they were in high school (Strasburger, et al). The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate, but has lower teen sex rates compared to other countries. This can be linked to the high rate of exposure to sexual content, but the lack of exposure to contraception and sexual education (Strasburger and Donnerstein). Social networking also plays a big role in youth's participation in sexual content as it allows for access to sexting, nude photographs, sexual harassment, and bullying. Twelve percent of all youth have admitted to sexting at some point before graduating high school ("Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents"). Sexual content is too regularly advertised in children's and teenage media. Today's youth need to be better educated on the outcomes of participation in sexual activity.
In addition to violence and sexual activity, today's youth are becoming more anti-social and less active. Children are becoming less willing to participate in real life activities and wanting to stay in their virtual worlds. Media is replacing sports, outdoor play, and other physical activity. It is replacing physical toys as children are becoming more interested in technological toys rather than basic toys. Children are beginning to have a lack of verbal communication as they rely solely on virtual communication (Strasburger and Donnerstein). They are losing manners for adult peers, and only wanting to be on a device at all times, as many kids have multiple different media outlets. This is causing issues with parents and adult interaction as today's youth are growing up in a completely different world than that of their elders.
Although media does have numerous different negative effects on today's youth, there are many positive effects. Today's youth can use their access to technology to better their education, and are able to research and find out far more new advancements than that out their elders. They are far more well equipped with tools to better their future. They can connect and learn through multiple varieties of media. They are also able to express themselves and enhance skills. Media could have positive effects as it can better children's educational progress and improve other useful skills.
It can be inferred that media has multiple different effects on today's youth growing up in such a technological era. Children can use technology to their advantage to better benefit themselves, but also must be careful as there are many negative effects that can occur as well. If technology is used in a healthy, safe way, children can benefit greatly from it. However, parental control is very important in the success of technology on their child's development. Media and technology continues to advance every day, and just like everything else, it must all be used in moderation.
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