A recent study by Common Sense Media does more than suggest a strong link between childhood obesity, smoking, and of course, sex. The study is based on research done in 173 separate studies on health and media over the past thirty years. The researchers were from the Yale University School of Medicine, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the California Pacific Medical Center. In other words, no religious groups appear to be attached. We can all rest easy?
Lead researcher Ezekiel J. Emanuel of the NIH said, “This review is the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the many ways that media impacts children’s physical health. The results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between media exposure and long-term negative health effects to children, “ he said.
“This study provides an important jumping-off point for future research that should explore both the effects of traditional media content and that of digital media – such as video games, the Internet, and cell phones – which kids are using today with more frequency,” he continued.
The study concluded that media was 80 percent responsible not just for obesity, but also fears about sexual activity and deviant behavior, like smoking. Their recommendations for parents was to limit exposure as much as possible and make “age appropriate” choices.
Their recommendations go even further, stressing that media literacy be taught early and often in school, and that government should make media education programs a national priority. Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get right on that.
Now that childhood obesity has a definite culprit, one wonders just how far government is willing to go to make it all stop. This problem goes a lot deeper than blaming media and TV; it’s a perfect storm of too many great gadgets keeping us sedentary, parents who work too much, and kids who no longer play outdoors, even in rural areas, for fear of stranger danger. In order to make kids move more there is P.E. in school, or karate classes, or group sports.
Education might not be the answer. Perhaps it is un-American to consider placing more hard-core restrictions on the kinds of programming aimed directly at kids? And it’s probably un-American to consider forcing restaurants and food manufacturers to consider whether or not what they are selling is poison?
It probably has less to do with how many hours are spent sitting and watching TV and more to do with the general lack of nutrition in most foods made for and sold to kids. Advertising has become such an integral part of our childhood experiences that McDonald’s itself is now a treasured memory. But perhaps we’ll need 173 more studies and three more decades before anyone does anything about it.