A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics on whether the media influences children concluded that media influences children as the children learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviors their own as depicted in the media (p.1224). Moreover, the influence of Media on children is steadily increasing as new forms of media are developed and affordably accessing media becomes the norm. It is critical to note that the media has positive and negative influences, yet the adverse consequences of media influence on children are gaining ground. The adverse effects of Media on children harm their lifestyles and impact their mental growth and development.
One way the media influences children is through the promotion and sensationalism of violent behavior. Children are learning aggressive behaviors from the media and especially social media platforms. Children are venerable to the adverse effects of violent Media as they are yet to develop the emotional, mental, and cognitive ability to understand the nature of violence on their development (Wiedeman et al., p.25). The exposure to media violence in different forms is observed, imitated and the children replicate the violent behavior in one way or another. for example, kids who play video games which are often violent in design tend to exhibit more aggressive behaviors during playtime as they equate the video games violence to playfulness.
Kids are growing up immersed in all types of media, from traditional to social media children are increasingly developing within the media spectrum. Moreover, immersion is taking its toll on their mental health. A study carried out by Russ et al. on the effects of Media on children between the ages of 6 and 17 concludes that children’s obesity, social-emotional problems, low self-esteem, and lower social competence are associated with media immersion (p.300). as children are becoming less physically active due to many hours of watching television or on their computer’s child obesity is increasing. At the same time, children spend less time forming and making social relationships, adversely affecting their social and emotional growth. Increased internet use and its associated tools have been linked to loneliness and depression as virtual socialization impedes the healthy formation of social relationships (Russ et al., p.304). as children increase the hours there are spending on television and social media platforms, there are disassociating from their environments which affects their mental growth.
The media influences children’s body image growth and development. Both traditional and social media increase and influence body dissatisfaction in children (Mahon et al., p.2). children are not only prolific but also make it a habit of using social media, which tends to prefer using human visuals as their content. Moreover, in most cases, the human visuals are of celebrities and models who portray unattainable body images. Children strive to attain body ideas early, impacting their physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive growth and development. The unattainable body images portrayed by the media negatively affect the formation of interpersonal skills, which implicates confidence leading to low self-esteem and the development of negative perceptions about themselves. For instance, PETA, an animal rights Organization, made an outside poster advertisement that fat-shamed individuals. The advertisement displayed on a highway called for individuals to lose weight by losing the bludder by eating vegetarians to save whales. Outdoor advertisement is displayed to be viewed by everybody, including children. The PETA advertisement is a form of body shaming that potentially affects children and their perception of their bodies.
Figure 1 (Jake, 2016)
Another negative influence of Media on children is the portrayal of explicit content. Children who are exposed to sex through the media are influenced to engage in sexual activity and in setting intentions to have sex in the future (Jones, para.1).children are not only using the Media for sexual information but are also trusting the media to make decisions about their sexual activities. The Media is not only portraying sex and sexual activity as risk-free, but also that safe sex is an infrequent occurrence during sexual activity (Jones, para 6: Huston et al., 22). As the Media uses sex and sexual sensationalizing to capture audiences, children are exposed to unfiltered sexual activities. Advertisement in the Media is sexually objective, influencing children to perceive themselves as sexual and interfering with their understanding of sexual reproduction education. Moreover, due to a lack of guidelines from parents, the government, and stakeholders, children are increasingly experimenting with sex and sexual activity at an early age, adversely affecting their growth and development.
Children are being called digital natives as they are growing in a world of digital revolution and connections from infancy. However, immersion in Media is dangerous to their brain structure development, negatively impacting their lives. Digital natives show a higher prevalence of screen-related addiction behavior reflected in their changing brain structures (Sigman, p.1-4). Moreover, the brain change is adversely impacting the children’s impulse control and ability to initiate and engage in play, which is a significant part of children’s neurological health and development. For example, children mindlessly stare at screens and scroll aimlessly, which diminishes their capacity to understand content and changes how the brain develops critical thinking skills as the brain is not stimulated.
A combination of all the negative influences of social media on children affects their ability towards academic excellence; as children spend more time on media-related activities, the amount of time they spend on school assignments decreases. It is critical to note that media use in children is passive and negatively affects the learner’s ability to engage in class and become active academic participants. The overstimulation from media-related activities results in children losing their concertation in education.
However, it is critical to note that media influences on children are not all negative. Media is a tool that educates and allows children to learn and be exposed to positive experiences. Educational television is a tool that has demonstrated short and long-term benefits for acquiring specific knowledge, learning prosocial behavior, literacy, and problem-solving, among others (Warburton et al., p.7). also, as the world becomes a global village due to technological developments, the media, especially social media, is a tool for socialization with video games that offer opportunities for children to develop positive behaviors concerning interpersonal skills and acceptable social norms. Within media management, the Media is used to manage pain in children as a drug-free alternative (Warburton et al., p.8). The medical community has used music and video games to manage pain in children and increase their intrinsic ability to heal. At the same time, video games increase a child’s sense of control, self-esteem, and ability to make decisions within critical thinking skills.
Parents, governments, the media industry, and stakeholders must engage in strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of Media on children. The media industry needs to be responsible for portraying violence and violence-inducing narratives and stories. At the same time, there is an urgent need for media literacy which will advocate for safer media spaces for children and teach children how to navigate the ever-changing media spaces. Finally, parents need to be proactive in their involvement in how children are exposed to media and the experiences they gain from the media. Monitoring and discussing what the children see and hear from the media will better inform parents on how best to manage the negative influences while increasing the positive impact of the Media on children.
Media influences children through the promotion and sensationalism of violent behavior as children learn by observing, imitating, and repeating what they view in media. Also, media influences children’s mental growth and development as they are less active, unable to form social relationships, and disassociate from their immediate environments. The media influences children’s body image growth and development as the media portray unattainable body images. Another negative influence of Media on children is the portrayal of explicit content promoted as risk-free and safe sex is not promoted. As children are digital natives, the long hours of Media use is the changing their brain structure, adversely impacting the children’s neurological health and development as well as their academic excellence and abilities. However, it is critical to note that the Media is a tool for learning and socialization and is used to manage pain in children. There is a need for Parents, governments, the media industry, and stakeholders must engage in strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of Media on children.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “Media violence.” Pediatrics 108.5 (2001): 1222-1226.
Huston, A. C., Wartella, E., & Donnerstein, E. (1998). Measuring the Effects of Sexual Content in the Media: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Jake, H. “Five ads that took body-shaming to a new level.” [Blog] Daze Digital, (2016).Available at: <https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31606/1/the-five-worst-examples-of-body-shaming-ads> [Accessed 20 September 2022].
Jones, S. “Media ‘influence’ adolescent sex.” The Guardian. 2006. <https://www.theguardian.com/media/2006/mar/22/pressandpublishing.broadcasting> [Accessed 20 September 2022].
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Mahon, Ciara, and David Hevey. “Processing body image on social media: Gender differences in adolescent boys’ and girls’ agency and active coping.” Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021): 626763.
Russ, Shirley A., et al. “Associations between media use and health in US children.” Academic pediatrics 9.5 (2009): 300-306.
Sigman, Aric. “Screen dependency disorders: a new challenge for child neurology.” Journal of the International Child Neurology Association (2017).
Warburton, Wayne A., and Craig A. Anderson. “Children, Impact of media on.” Encyclopedia of violence, peace, and conflict. Elsevier Academic Press, 2022. 195-208. DOI:10.1016/b978-0-12-820195-4.00026-1
Wiedeman, Ashlee M., et al. “Factors influencing the impact of aggressive and violent media on children and adolescents.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 25 (2015): 191-198. http:/dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2015.04.008.