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Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine theme issue on children and the media

The JAMA Network Journals

Studies featured in the April Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine theme issue on children and the media include the following:

Violent Video Games May Contribute to Negative Health Attitudes and Behaviors

In a small study of male undergraduates, those who played a violent video game had greater increases in diastolic blood pressure, greater negative affect (tendency toward anxiety, depression and anger), more permissive attitudes toward using alcohol and marijuana and more uncooperative behavior than those who played a video game with a low violence content. Sonya S. Brady, Ph.D., now at University of California, San Francisco, and Karen A. Matthews, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, recruited 100 men aged 18 to 21 years. Participants were assigned to play either Grand Theft Auto III, a highly violent game, or The Simpsons: Hit and Run, which involves driving through a city to complete various non-violent tasks. After playing for ten minutes, they completed a variety of physiological and psychological evaluations. "Results of the present study suggest that media violence exposure may predispose adolescents and young adults toward greater engagement in general health risk behaviors and toward tension and conflict in social interactions with others," the authors conclude. "Adolescents and their parents may benefit from media education campaigns."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:341-347.)

Children Who Watch Violent TV May Spend Less Time with Friends

In a national survey of more than 3,500 children, those who watched more violent television spent less time with their friends. David S. Bickham, Ph.D., and Michael Rich, M.D., M.P.H., Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, analyzed time-use diaries completed by the children's primary caregivers. Children's activities were reported during every minute of two randomly selected days, one weekday and one weekend. Parents also wrote down who else was present during each activity, and when children were watching television, the title of the program or movie being viewed was recorded. For children age 6 to 8 years, each additional hour of violent TV corresponded to 20 minutes less time spent with friends; for 9- to 12-year-olds, each hour spent watching violent programming reduced time spent with friends by 25 minutes. "The model that may most accurately represent real-world effects of violent television is one that synthesizes both directions of influence into a cyclical process, a downward spiral from violent television viewing to aggressive behavior to social isolation to viewing more violent television," the authors write. "Exposure to violent television could, therefore, be the catalyst for a cyclical system leading toward an aggressive, socially isolated lifestyle."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:387-392.)

African-American Children and Exposure to Food, Beverage Ads

A content analysis of after-school programming indicates that African-American children may be overexposed to advertisements for foods and beverages without equivalent messages about health and physical activity. Corliss Wilson Outley, Ph.D., and Abdissa Taddese of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, analyzed the advertising on Black Entertainment Television, The WB and Disney Channel--the top-ranked stations for African-American viewers younger than age 18 years--from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during a one-week period in July 2005. In 36 hours of monitoring, they recorded a total of 1,098 advertisements, 256 focusing on food and beverages. About 36 percent of all commercials were for fast food restaurants, 31.3 percent were for drinks, 16.8 percent were for candy, 13.7 percent were for cereals and 2 percent were for snacks. Of those food and beverage advertisements, only 8.2 percent featured health-related content and 9.4 percent addressed physical activity. "Given the increase in the number of African American children who are overweight and obese, their cultural predisposition to watch television programs that feature African American characters and the lack of obesity prevention programs designed to address disproportionate target marketing, research on the effect of media on African American children in the United States must become a priority," the authors conclude.
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:432-435.)

Television Viewing Linked to Higher Calorie Consumption Among Children

In a study of children at five public schools near Boston, children who watched more television consumed more calories. Jean L. Wiecha, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues studied 548 children (48.4 percent females) with an average age of 11.7 years. Among participants, each additional hour of television watched per day was associated with an extra 167 calories consumed, including a larger percentage of sugar-sweetened beverages, fast foods and other products commonly advertised on TV. "Although children and youth are encouraged to watch what they eat, many youth seem to eat what they watch, and in the process increase their risk for increasing their energy intake," the authors write. "In the absence of regulations restricting food advertising aimed at children, reduction in television viewing is a promising approach to reducing excess energy intake."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:436-442.)

Children Who Watch More TV May Have Sex Earlier

A large national study indicates that among adolescents whose parents express disapproval of sex, those who watch more than two hours of television a day may begin having sex at a younger age than those who do not. Sarah L. Ashby, M.D., M.S., and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, examined data from a national survey of 4,808 students (2,682 girls and 2,126 boys) younger than age 16 who had not yet had sex. About 49 percent reported watching more than two hours of television per day. After one year, 791 (15.6 percent) had begun having sex. Among those whose parents had expressed their disapproval of sex, those who watched more television and those whose parents did not regulate their television use were each significantly more likely to have had sex by the end of the study. "We hypothesize that for adolescents who do not perceive strong parental disapproval of sex and are already at higher risk for sexual initiation, television may not have affected their behavior," the authors write. "However, for adolescents who perceive strong parental disapproval of sex and are at lower risk for sexual initiation, contradictory messages, such as those seen on television, may be more influential."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:375-380.)


Editor's Note: Please see the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine for detailed information on these studies, the researchers and the funding.

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