Children's optimal development is a function of their early environmental inputs, and electronic media is a key part of that environment. Today, American children are bombarded with electronic media, from television, to video games, computers, and iPods. The Future of Children recently released an evaluation of the effects of media on child well-being. On the one hand, the study found that content intended to encourage pro-social behavior led to increased cooperation, tolerance, and altruism among children. Similarly, children exposed to health marketing campaigns designed to prevent smoking, drug, and alcohol use and to promote physical activity and safe sexual practices were likely to engage in less risky behaviors.
On the other hand, entertainment and news programming led to higher levels of fear and anxiety among children. Similarly, high levels of media consumption are associated with unhealthy behaviors like alcohol and tobacco use. Perhaps most disturbing, young children believe that commercials are simply informative, rather than understanding their potential to manipulate.
The Take Away: Adults advance healthy social, emotional, and moral development in children when they insure that children are exposed to age appropriate media. Adults should limit advertisement and marketing exposure, while expanding pro-social electronic media access.
Children and electronic media. (2008). The Future of Children, 18(1), Retrieved from http://www.policyforchildren.org/pdf/Children%20and%20Electronic%20Media_18_01_ExecSummary.pdf