Although worries about sex, drugs, and school still top the list when I talk to parents of teenagers, the issue of screen time, video games and social media sites often have parents and teens in bitter battles. What’s a good parent to do?
According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American youth spends eight to ten hours a day on some form of media–often more than one at a time. The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) was founded ten years ago as a collaborative effort of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health to figure out just how this enormous change in the daily life of kids might be affecting them.
Michael Rich, MD, is a pediatrician whose focus is to study the effects of media on children’s health. He thinks of media the way other doctors think about nutrition, wanting to give parents research based tips on which media are empty calories versus full of nutrients. In order to do so, Rich and his team have examined more than 3400 studies on the impact of media. Not all the results are what you might expect.
For example, Rich and Bickham found that kids who watch TV with friends were often more likely to spend time also doing other kinds of activities with their peers. So quantity is not necessarily bad. On the other hand, kids who spend more time watching violent shows tended to be more isolated. The research does not indicate whether it is the chicken or the egg. In other words, do isolated kids watch more violent TV or does violence cause more isolation? No matter what, parents and therapists should be monitoring the content of kids media and encouraging social engagement of all kinds.
Media late at night can disrupt kids sleep, and too many kids (and adults) are already suffering from sleep deprivation. Neuroscientist Marcus Dworak looked at sleep patterns of boys aged 12 to 14. Researchers asked kids to alternate between watching action movies one night …