Pediatricians advise curbing childhood media addiction

Mark Risinger, Amy Risinger
Pediatrics groups say unrestricted media use is linked to violence, poor performance in school, cyber-bullying and lack of sleep. Mark Risinger views Facebook as his mother looks on. (AP Photo)

The Pediatric Journal of Medicine published medical advice from an influential group of pediatricians advising parents to curb media intake for children and adolescents.

Doctors reported that excessive media use is linked to obesity, violence, poor performance in school, sleep deprivation and cyber bullying.

BYU human development professor Sarah Coyne agrees with the doctor’s orders.

“It’s great advice,” Coyne said. “It’s recommended children spend no more than two hours a day on media, and none if they’re under age two.”

But U.S. children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of seven viewing hours a day according to the journal’s 2010 report.

The policy states, “Young people now spend more time with media than they do in school.”

Children and adolescents spend as much time consuming media as sleeping according to the report.

Coyne said she is most concerned with media addiction.

“When media overtakes your ability to be in the real world, when you’d rather be in the virtual world, that’s a real problem,” she said.

Coyne has dedicated most of her career to studying the effects of media on young adults and children. She said the study published by the journal is consistent with her research.

“I’m most concerned with children and adolescents because they’re still developing their individuality and how to handle feelings of aggression,” she said. “The habits kids develop will shape the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy, said he hopes the study will lead to more limits from parents and schools. He told The Associated Press that “many parents are clueless” about the potential impact excessive media exposure can have on children.

The policy includes children and adolescents who use smart phones, gaming consoles and tablets, laptops, social media and other Internet devices. Studies found excessive use of Internet devices had negative effects on children, but no side effects were extreme.

Strasburger said he assumes many adolescents will scoff at advice from pediatricians. He said he hopes the study will ultimately help parents.

“It’s the 21st century and they need to get with it,” he said.

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