Spider-Man, Power Rangers injurious to kids

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MUMBAI: It has long been suspected that television, media and entertainment have a great impact on the development of children. Now a latest study says that cartoons like Spider Man, Power Rangers, Star Wars and Space Jam are injurious to kids!

According to the study, the above mentioned cartoons have been classified as violent entertainment for kids because characters fight or flee from violent situations, laugh or cheer as they rejoice in violent acts.

What’s more, even G-rated films intended for children can be filled with violence and classed as violent entertainment, according to this definition.

Watching violent television programs between the ages of 2 and 5 years of age is clearly linked to aggressive and anti-social behaviors in boys when they reach age 7 to 9, according to the study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics. Investigators Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, and Frederick Zimmerman, PhD, both of Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine, add these findings to their research on the effects of television and media on children and their ability to learn, socialize and develop.

By contrast, shows considered non-violent included programs like Toy Story, Flintstones and Rugrats. A third category of educational programming was also reviewed, such as Barney, Sesame Street, Magic School Bus and Winnie-the-Pooh. Significantly, the correlation to later aggressive and anti-social behaviors in boys only appeared with those shows and programming rated as violent.

The journal article titled “Violent Television Viewing During Preschool is Associated with Anti-social Behavior During School Age” reviews data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which is a 40-year study of 8,000 US families. The project looked at the types of programming watched by 184 boys and 146 girls between ages 2 and 5, and anti-social behaviors between ages 7 and 10. A clear link was found between pre-school age boys who watched violent programs and their later development of anti-social and aggressive behaviors at ages 7 to 9. There was no such correlation found for girls.

“This new study provides further evidence of how important and powerful television and media are as young children develop. However, the news here is not all bad. While we found that shows like violent cartoons or football can make children more aggressive, we found no such effect for other programs such as educational ones. This points out that parents must be informed and very selective when making media choices for their children,” said Christakis.

“These findings are a bit unnerving because we know from other studies that the behaviors children manifest in early childhood track into adolescence and even into adulthood. As children grow older they gradually learn coping skills to deal with difficult situations, so it’s important to provide positive role models for them at a young age,” he added.

The anti-social and aggressive behaviors noted in this study’s data included observations about cheating, being mean to others, feeling no regret, being destructive, disobedience at school and having trouble with teachers.

“We now recognize that content is key. Given the media saturated world that young children now inhabit, we need further research and policies to ensure that media exerts a positive influence on children,” said Christakis.

In a related companion journal article appearing in the same issue of Pediatrics called “Association Between Content Types of Early Media Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems,” the same researchers found that for children under age 3, each hour per day spent watching violent television was associated with approximately twice the risk of attention problems five years later. There was also significant risk of increased attention problems associated with watching nonviolent television for the same age group, but no risk was associated with viewing educational programming. Older children ages 4 and 5 showed no increased risk five years later for attention problems from watching violent or non-violent programs. This second study was based on data collected from parents of 933 children and shows that the effect of violent television content on attention problems is much higher than previously estimated when program content was not identified.

“It would appear both of these studies rule out educational TV as a contributor to either aggression or attention problems among young children. Parents can take some comfort in that, especially since there is some high-quality educational programming available on TV and DVD. Together these studies suggest that by changing the channel, parents may be able to change their children’s behavior,” said Zimmerman.