How Watching TV and Adult Media Affects Children's Health

US children watch TV for 3-4 hours per day on average, while those who are allowed to watch adult movies have an increased risk of taking up drinking and smoking at an early age

Two new studies on the time children should spend watching TV and adult media have recently been published in the Pediatrics Journal. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted one of the studies and the team of experts at the Hood Centre for Children and Families at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire - who were involved in the second study - stressed the fact that children should not watch TV for more than 2 hours daily, should not have TV sets in their bedrooms and also should not watch 18-rated movies and other adult media.

The study run by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania was conducted on 180 parents whose children were aged between 6 and 13. The parents were asked about their offsprings' TV habits and found that children spend 3 hours on average in the front of the TV, though new TV-watching guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise parents not to allow children over 2 years of age to watch TV for more than 2 hours per day.

Lead author of the study Amy Jordan stated: "Getting parents to be aware of how much time children are spending in front of a screen is important. When parents started adding it up, then they started realizing, it was probably three, four or five hours a day." She also concluded: "I think to most families, the media has become very integrated into the life of the family and child. To radically change that means giving a shock to the family system. Children rely on TV for entertainment and distraction, while parents rely on it for cheap babysitting."

The second study focused mainly on how watching 18-rated movies and adult media in general affects children's mental health and behavior. Overall results of the study showed that an amazingly high number of children watch adult movies - which increases their risk of taking up bad habits such as drinking and smoking. The research was conducted on 2600 parents with children aged between 9 and 12.

Madeline Dalton, director of the Hood Centre for Children and Families at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire and the lead author of the Movies-and-Health study reported that 40% of the 9-year-olds and 70% of the 12-year-olds watched 18-rated movies. She said: "I was pretty surprised at how few parents set restrictions and monitored movie-viewing. Forty percent of 9-year-olds watched 18-rated movies at least occasionally and 70 percent of 12-year-olds did."

According to the findings of the study, watching adult movies alone has a bad influence on children, as those who saw these types of movies were more likely to start drinking and smoking at an early age. On the other hand, children who watched adult movies with their parents had a considerably low risk of taking up bad habits.

Prof. Dalton highlighted the fact that "the media is a very important part of children's lives today, and parents need to take it seriously." This is why "parents who model good behaviour need to realise that it's probably not enough." She also cautioned: "kids under 13 should not be watching 18-rated movies."

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