It will come as no surprise that three out of four studies link increased media use among children with a wide variety of negative outcomes. That’s what the National Institutes of Health concluded after checking out 173 such studies going back to 1980. Exposure to television content, along with video games, movies, music, the internet and magazines, was linked to obesity, smoking, early sexual behavior, poor school grades, and the use of drugs and alcohol. NIH bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told Reuters, "I think we were pretty surprised by how overwhelming the number of studies was that showed this negative health impact."
Emanuel added, "The fact that it was probably more a matter of quantity than actual content is also a concern. We have a media-saturated life right now in the 21st century. And reducing the number of hours of exposure is going to be a big issue."
Some studies linked television viewing among the very young with obesity; others find television programming shaping the worldviews of teens.
RBR/TVBR observation: Emanuel may be surprised, but we’re not. We think it is natural for researchers to go into a study of the relationship between media and children with a preconceived hypothesis and then prove their preconception. We have other questions, though. How many of the children are being adversely affected? And wouldn’t it be interesting if it turned out that most of those affected are in a broken home, or are living in poverty?
Here are our questions: Is the media solely responsible for negative health outcomes, is it a contributing factor, or is it a minimal factor? If the media goes away, will the problems afflicting children go away too?
If somebody wants use such a study to restrict speech, a direct cause-and-effect link, independent of other possible causes, should be the standard of proof.