Media Health Matters


Does Your Child’s Media Use Inspire a Healthy Attitude?     


Thanksgiving celebrations can inspire feelings of gratitude, joy, and connection, but what ideas and beliefs are inspired by your child’s media environment? Do lessons promote gratitude, tolerance, and confidence? The media children use contribute to their sense of self, the world, and how to interact with others. Enjoy your family time together, and check out the resources below to inspire conversations about choosing media that support your child’s path to health and success.


The Q & A


Pediatrician, professor, parent and former filmmaker, Dr. Michael Rich answers parents’ questions about media and health. Encouraging families to enjoy their media and use them wisely, Dr. Rich shares science-based answers and practical solutions on body imagegender roles, risky behavior, racism, and more through Ask the Mediatrician┬«.  


                                                                                Read more in Harvard Magazine > The Mediatrician


The Tips 


Here are a few suggestions to help you manage media–TV, movies, music, computers, advertising, cellphones, video games, magazines, song lyrics, and Internet–messages. Find more tips online, or share your own, on our Facebook page! 


Y O U N G E R   K I D S: 

  • Choosey mothers, choose wisely. Watching commercials with cartoon characters over time has the potential to change children’s perception toward food and to encourage behaviors that put children at risk for becoming obese. According to CMCH scientist, Dr. David Bickham, “Kids that are young have less of a cognitive ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, and so the meaning of these characters are much more important.” Select age-appropriate content without commercials or record the programs and fast-forward through the commercials. When you choose to be your young child’s media gatekeeper, you choose wisely!

O L D E R   K I D S:                                                       

  • Make discussions about media messages fun! First, working together, make a list of your family’s top attitudes and beliefs on a chalkboard or poster board. Then, enjoy media as you normally would for one week. Write down the lessons, themes, cultural attitudes, or behavior demonstrated by the many forms of media your children consume. Finally, compare the lists. Did the messages seem believable, accurate, and include consequences? Let the kids run the family discussion. This activity can make it easier to audit your child’s media content–and it’s impact as well.  


The Research

The following studies examine the relationship between media and children’s attitudes and behavior. The CMCH Database of Research (DoR) provides parents, media professionals, clinicians, teachers, and researchers access to the current state of knowledge regarding electronic and print media and the effects they may have on child health. 

  • Exposure to profanity in multiple forms of media is associated with attitudes and behavior regarding profanity use and aggression. See this study
  • Teens viewing pictures on social networking sites of teens getting drunk, passing out, or using drugs are twice as likely to say they are very or somewhat likely to try drugs in the future, compared to teens who have not seen such pictures. See this study  
  • Exposure to prosocial video games activated the accessibility of prosocial thoughts, which in turn promoted prosocial behavior.  See this study