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Children and Media Issues Introduction

Angela Oswalt, MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

This document concerns media, and the influence of media on children. As used here, media refers to the vast web of communication and entertainment technologies and services that have become a commonplace and ever-present aspect of modern life. Books and magazines, movies and television programs, computer programs, and internet websites and services are all examples of media, as are the computers, mobile phones and specialty devices used to access these services.

girl with headphones and laptopIn various formats, media have influenced children's development for hundreds of years. However, recent decades have witnessed an absolute explosion of new media technologies, and rapid adoption of these technologies, in particular internet and cell phone technologies, by all segments of society. Consequently, media forces today are unprecedented in their pervasiveness, and in their ability to influence and shape children's developing minds.

Adoption of new media technologies has been so accelerated in some cases that children may now be comfortably using forms of media that their parents do not well understand or may never have heard of! This is a difficult state of affairs for parents, who cannot properly do their job as parents when they don't know what their children are doing. There is real reason for parents to be concerned about their children's media use. While media can enhance children's education, learning opportunities, curiosity, creativity, and communication, it can also teach negative life lessons, consume too much of their time, distract them from exercise, other physical play, and socialization, and sometimes make it easier for them to put themselves into dangerous situations.

The purpose of this document is to educate parents as to the types and varieties of media that children are exposed to today; to help parents understand the positive and negative aspects of these many different kinds of media, and to provide recommendations and strategies that parents can use to help regulate their children's consumption of media in various forms so as to best promote children's healthy development.