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Researchers and Parents Should View Media As A Public Health Issue

Armen Hareyan's picture

Parenting and Health

As technology becomes more advanced and communications tools more widely available, parents and researchers must examine the effects of media use that has pervaded children's lives, according to an editorial in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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"Media need to be recognized as a major public health issue rather than as a series of commercial endeavors in need of regulation, as they are among the most profound influences on children in this country; this intersects with many other issues that are critically important to child health, including violence, obesity, tobacco and alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors," write associate editor Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., and Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, in the editorial.

However, those who focus on only the dangers of children's media use are not seeing the whole picture, they continue. "Television and other media must be viewed as more than sources or evil or mere idle pleasures; their potential to enrich the lives of our children are, in fact, enormous, and that potential needs to be explored and actualized," they write. "We need to find ways to optimize the role of media in our society, taking advantage of their positive attributes and minimizing their negative ones."

More evidence is needed on both sides of the coin, they conclude. For this reason, the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine is a theme issue on children and the media. "Representing the current state of the science in a wide variety of disciplines on the effects of media on children, this issue of the Archives is an important start in furthering this research," Drs. Christakis and Zimmerman conclude. "We hope that it is just that, a start, outlining the important questions that must be addressed. The potential impact of media on our children and our society mandates that these studies lead to a rapid expansion of rigorous controlled trials and long-term follow-up studies to better understand how to reverse the scales and make the effects of media more positive than negative." (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:445-446.)