Modern media and the making of malfunctioning children

Surfing this week’s media, brought in a bumper of reports and studies on the effects of media on kids today. Here are my summaries and the links:

Children and Electronic Media is a report by the Future of Children, a collaboration between Princeton University and Brookings Institution and report by examines the best available evidence from various studies on whether and how exposure to different media forms is linked to child well-being.

Key findings of the report include:
􀂃 Content matters. More than the type of media platform or even how much time is spent using media, the content is what determines whether the impact is positive or negative.
􀂃 Media multitasking is at an all-time high. Traditional media-use diaries, in which youth record the time they spend using various forms of media, are no longer useful as youths are often using two, three, or even four forms of media simultaneously. Analysts must develop a new way of conceptualizing media exposure to capture accurately children’s media use and exposure.
􀂃 Media content designed to promote pro-social behavior does increase social capacities such as altruism, cooperation, and tolerance of others. On the flip side, the content of some entertainment and news programs can instill fear and anxiety in children.
􀂃 Children and youth use electronic media mainly to better communicate with their offline friends, not with strangers.
􀂃 Media can enhance healthful behaviors—such as preventing smoking and alcohol and drug use, and promoting physical activity and safe sex—through social marketing campaigns.
􀂃 Some risky behaviors such as agressive behavior and cigarette and alcohol consumption are strongly linked to media consumption. Others, such as obesity and sexual activity, are either only tangentially linked or require additional research before an answer can be given.
􀂃 Marketing and advertising are influential and integral parts of children’s daily lives and many of the products marketed to children are unhealthful. Young children do not understand that advertisements are meant to persuade them to purchase goods rather than simply inform them.
􀂃 Government regulation of media content is unpalatable to many given our country’s valuation of free speech, and recent expansions of First Amendment protection of commercial speech means that government is not likely to strengthen regulation against advertisers.
What Can Be Done to Ensure More Positive Outcomes for Children Using New Media?
The main lesson learned from this volume can be captured in one phrase: content matters. Rather than focusing on the type of technology used or how much time is spent with media, parents and policymakers need to focus on what is being offered to children on the various media platforms.

Implications for Educators.
Schools and teachers should implement research-based programs that use electronic media to enhance classroom curricula and teach students how to use electronic media constructively. Teachers should also receive training in the uses of new technologies and in how to manage the private use of electronic media in schools to decrease distractions, bullying, and cheating.
Implications for Families.
Parents will continue to be central to regulating their children’s media exposure in two ways. First, working with governmental and especially nongovernmental organizations, they can put pressure on industry to develop better content, create meaningful ratings systems, cut back on inappropriate advertising, and invent better products to help screen content. Second, they can educate themselves about good media use based on their children’s developmental stages and monitor their children’s media use to ensure that it is healthful and constructive. Read the entire report here.

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Japanese kids’ cellphone usage is said to be the highest the world, the following article is probably hits the right note on why kids’ academic performance is declining in affluent societies including Japan…

Shakespeare Didn’t Blog Author Says Texting and Testing Are Destroying Kids riting Style (Ednews.org) Read excerpt below:

“These kids aren’t learning to spell. They’re learning acronyms and short hand,” says Ream, “Text messaging is destroying the written word.The students aren’t writing letters, they’re typing into their cell phones one line at a time. Feelings aren’t communicated with words when your texting; emotions are sideways smiley faces. Kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn’t even a complete thought.”
Reading may not be the problem. Neilson/NetRatings reports the average 12 to 17-year-old visits more than 1400 web pages a month. Ask that average teenager what they read, and they may be able to tell you. Ask the average teenager what their opinion is on that blog or article, and you may find them fumbling for thoughts that are their own.
“What’s not taught today,” says Ream, “Is critical thinking skills. Teachers are forced to use what little classroom time they have to teach to the standardized tests.The kids learn how to regurgitate information to parrot it back for the correct answer, but they can’t process the thought and build on it.”
[snip]
‘Ream says the parents can make a big difference in the way their children communicate. She suggests reading the same book your teenager is reading – then trying to open a dinner table conversation about the plot of that novel.
Ream says writing is a skill that can be learned. Her book, “K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple” lays out a formula she says makes writing easier: Teach your kids to organize their thoughts on paper; compare the subject with others to show how the ideas are similar; contrast the subject with others to show how the concept is different; and interrelate – write the essay to show how the subject relates to the reader.
Every generation has great minds with great thoughts that can guide the rest of us.If teenagers aren’t taught to groom their opinions and ideas so that they can write effectively, society will lose out on a generation of creativity…

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How the web stole our children is a chilling report that reveals that under-16s spend more than 20 hours a week online – with most viewing uncensored sex and violence. One mother logged on to explore this new generation’s secret world. What she found horrified her… read on here

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The report Damaged children: Family breakdown and too many tests take their toll on mental health (Daily Mail (UK)) says that kids’ mental health problems include poor family relationships, rampant marketing leading to pressure to look attractive, binge-drinking and over-testing at school. However, it also lays the blame squarely on the lack of parental supervision and poor parenting.

“It also singles out poor parenting, either by a lack of affection or the failure to show authority and set boundaries.

Children’s growing inactivity and their failure to take physical exercise or play outdoors is another concern.

Two-thirds of parents surveyed for the society’s Good Childhood Inquiry believed TV and computer games stopped children being active while a similar number said schools were failing to recognise the importance of exercise.” To read click here.

 

Are Video Games Harmful or Not? from Komando.com

Movie and TV content are prime issues with many parents. Likewise, video games are often cause for concern. After tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting, video games routinely reach the forefront of discussion.

Video game violence has been an especially controversial topic in recent years. The popular Grand Theft Auto games received criticism from Congress. Grand Theft Auto players can steal cars, evade or kill police and gun down bystanders.

Unlike most forms of visual entertainment, video games are interactive. Rather than merely witnessing violence, kids participate. Does that prime kids for violent behavior?

Video games are relatively new. So, the jury is still out.

Decide for yourself

As a parent, you should consider both sides of this debate. Form your own opinions and build house rules around them. Several sites offer arguments in this debate.

The National Institute on Media and the Family offers research on the harmful effects of TV and video games. Topics include school performance, violence and health. The site’s Video Game Report Card presents recent statistics and study results.

KidsRisk provides similar information. It focuses on physical and mental health risks to children. Take a look at the research on entertainment media. You’ll find information on video games and movies.

You can also find information from the American Psychological Association. You will find research correlating video game violence to aggressive behavior.

On the other side of the debate is the American Sociological Association. It notes that while video game sales have grown, youth violence has decreased.

Not surprisingly, the Entertainment Software Association also presents evidence in defense of video games. On the organization’s site, you can find information refuting links between video games and violence. The information includes court rulings that reject the validity of studies correlating games to violence.

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