What is your child’s “media diet”? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) investigated what the average “media diet” looks like for a child in the US: how much television children watch and how much of that is violent in nature. The results they found in their 2009 study were shocking:
- The average American watches about five hours of TV per day.
- A typical hour of TV consists of six different violent exchanges.
- 70 percent of children’s programs contain violence.
- 91 percent of video games that are labeled as appropriate for 10-year-olds include significant, often graphic violence.
- In spite of a “Mature” label, numerous children in grades 4-12 play video games that have substantial graphic violence.
This is shocking, especially when one considers the dire consequences evaluated by the AAP: “A sizable majority of media researchers both in pediatrics and psychology believe that existing data show a significant link between virtual violence and aggression.”
So far the AAP is taking steps to ensure that children have less access to violent media. Furthermore, the AAP is addressing the entertainment industry about their violent content, requesting that it be better controlled, monitored, as well as created with caution. The unfortunate reality is that three out of four children have access to a smart phone, which creates an additional, more private avenue for children to absorb disturbing media. Pediatric researchers from Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford University highlight this, suggesting that with a smart phone, a child has more access to watch others commit violence, share violence, and even record themselves doing violent things (both real and fictional).
Here is what the AAP suggest you can do as a parents to protect your children:
- Gain awareness.
- Request your pediatrician help your family navigate the effects of virtual violence on your children.
- Co-view games and movies with your kids.
- Make a media plan for your family.
- Protect children under age ten from all violent media.
- Encourage friendships with parents who have similar boundaries and limits regarding media.
Be the benevolent Chief Social Engineer of your family. Just as you wouldn’t allow your child to ingest poison orally, you must protect your children from the moral and visual poison that is available to so many children.