Media Health Matters


Trick-or-Treat: Learning to Recognize Embedded Media Messages




A collection of entertainment media for children and teens may look like a bag of treats at first glance, but closer inspection reveals that media content isn’t always what it appears to be. CONTENT matters. In this month’s issue of Media Health Matters, l

earn to recognize embedded advertising messages, health messages, and media bias. As more people learn to share our media world in a responsible way, it becomes more safe and rewarding for all! Here are 5 key questions you can ask of any media your family uses: 
  1. Who created this message, and for what purpose?
  2. What techniques were used to get my attention?
  3. How might different people interpret this message differently?
  4. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are portrayed?
  5. What is left out? 

For more media literacy resources, visit the our webpage on the topic, or visit the Center for Media Literacy, MediaSmarts, UNESCO’s Media and Information Literacy page, or the University of Michigan’s Resources on Media and Media LiteracyTo learn more about us, visit our Monthly Meet featuring CMCH employee Jill Kavanaugh.

— The CMCH Media Health Matters Team


The Tips   

From the Parent Network         


Y O U N G E R   K I D S  

  • Know what what “educational” media is actually teaching. Educational television may be beneficial. There are many TV shows, DVDs, games, and other forms of media that claim to help children learn, but most of these programs have not been researched to verify these claims. If your children use educational media, be sure they are appropriate for their age and skill level and that they do not involve violence. Watch the show with your children to see how much and what they are learning.      
M I D D L E    S C H O O L    K I D S 

  • Discuss product placement in media.   Talk with your child about why certain products appear in various media. Use this conversation to help kids learn that everything featured in media is featured by choice with a particular goal in mind (such as encouraging viewers to buy their product). This can be a great way to help kids learn about advertising techniques. Discussing advertisers‘ efforts to influence choices may help children learn to think critically about what they see, which can help them in many ways into the future. Understanding what’s going on behind the screens, can help kids more confidently interact with media.


O L D E R   K I D S 
  • Talk about embedded health information.   Talking to kids about the content they see, healthful or not, helps them understand and retain the lessons you want them to learn. In 2010, the popular teen show The O.C. aired a storyline in which the two main characters faced issues relating to teenage pregnancy. Research found that young women who followed the storyline were more likely to use birth control. 


The Q &A         

From the Mediatrician


Dr. Michael Rich encourages families to enjoy their media and use them wisely! Drawing on his experience as a parent, pediatrician, professor, and filmmaker, Dr. Rich shares science-based answers and practical solutions to your questions about media and child health.  


 How can I keep my kids from being frightened by scary media this Halloween?


When you can, prescreen the media, get advice from other parents, or read parent-oriented reviews to decide which media might be best for your children. You can let other parents know that your child is easily frightened and ask them to only show non-scary movies at parties. For when your child does get scared, though, be prepared to discuss what they see, to help them make meaning of it, and to help them incorporate it in safe and healthy ways into their view of the world. 

A teen patient texted her friends about suicidal thoughts, and her stepmother found out. How should I counsel them?

The first action to take is to ensure that this young woman gets the professional help she needs. Then talk with her and her stepmother, and encourage them to listen to each other and work together to find a way to handle this kind of situation–which will include the stepmother becoming more involved in her stepdaughter’s digital life.  



The Research  

From the CMCH Database                     

  • Children may be exposed to content encouraging alcohol and tobacco use in music videos.   


  • Research shows that the content of television advertisements can negatively affect eating behavior.