TUESDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- There's a strong link between media exposure and childhood obesity, smoking and sexual activity, according to U.S. researchers who reviewed 173 studies on media and health conducted over the past three decades.
According to the review, 80 percent of the studies concluded that higher amounts of television and other media exposure were associated with negative health effects in children and adolescents. The strongest association was between media and obesity. Of the 73 studies that examined media/childhood weight, 86 percent showed a significant association between increased media exposure and obesity.
The findings, by researchers from Yale University School of Medicine, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the California Pacific Medical Center, were released Tuesday by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the impact of media and entertainment on children and families.
"This review is the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the many ways that media impacts children's physical health," lead researcher Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, of the NIH, said in a news release.
"The results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between media exposure and long-term negative health effects to children. This study provides an important jumping-off point for future research that should explore both the effects of traditional media content and that of digital media -- such as video games, the Internet, and cell phones -- which kids are using today with more frequency," Emanuel said.
He and his colleagues recommend that parents limit their children's exposure to media and make wise, age-appropriate decisions for their children. There should be media literacy programs in schools, the researchers said, and policy makers need to make media education programs a national priority.
"Media is increasingly pervasive in the lives of children and adolescents," James P. Steyer, Common Sense Media founder and CEO, said in a group news release. "Parents and educators must consider the effects of media when they're trying to address issues with their child's health. This report makes is clear that we need a bold new agenda on media and technology use. We hope this report will create a new sense of urgency in that regard."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice for raising safe and healthy children.
SOURCE: Common Sense Media, news release, Dec. 2, 2008