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April 2006

Media as a Public Health Issue

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(4):445-446. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.4.445

Given the enormous influence that electronic media in all of their forms exerts on the lives of children, it is astonishing how little parents, researchers, and policymakers have been spurred to action. This is not to say that there have not been episodic public outcries about violence and sex on television and even some modicum of congressional action regarding them. However, these efforts have lacked consistency, thoughtfulness, and staying power. Most of what has been done to date to understand, curtail, or regulate the negative effects of media on children can be viewed as failure. Every single children's G-rated movie released in US theaters from 1937 to 1999 contained at least 1 act of violence.1 The quantity of advertising has increased to more than 16 minutes per hour of programming, and to 21 minutes per hour during daytime television.2 The amount of sex on television has doubled since 1998.3 The majority of video games rated E (for “Everyone”) contain intentional violence.4 The V-chip, mandated amidst great fanfare in 2000, has produced no tangible benefits. The ratings systems used for television and video games have not proven helpful to parents.5,6

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