I chose to look at the changes in middle childhood development due to media influence. I chose this topic because the American Academy of Pediatricians has been issuing guidelines to limit digital media exposure for children for over twenty years. The effects of too much digital media exposure seem to be common knowledge but media use appears rampant in this age group, in my personal experience. Media is just one influence on middle childhood development. As children age, they spend more time away from their families and a variety of influences begin to affect their lives in a greater proportion than in previous years.
Media, which I loosely defined as television, internet sources and video games, is one factor in development. Typically parents and educators are told by experts to limit the time of exposure children have to devices with screens. This advice is due to research that has shown negative outcomes in child development when children have more access and time with screens or media.
Some of this research is summarized below and even more of it is referenced by the authors of the studies.
This study began under the premise that media exposure can be linked by previous studies to obesity, poor grades, increased aggression and other detrimental effects on child development. They chose two main hypotheses to investigate. The first was whether bedroom media, TV’s or video games in the child’s bedroom, caused the child to have less time spent on other tasks.
Labeled the displacement hypothesis, this could explain why children with increased media exposure are at greater risk for obesity and lower grades. Children simply have a finite amount of time and if tv/media replaced sports or homework then this theory would explain the effects of having media sources in the child’s room on development. Bedroom TVs have been linked to higher screen time by previous research and higher total screen time does correlate to lower grades and school performance. However, these previous studies did not examine if the cause was from media replacing other activities like time spent studying, so this current study on bedroom media access will analyze this. The second hypothesis they examined was the content hypothesis. Does unsupervised bedroom media lead to watching more aggression and violence, since such content had been previously linked by other research to violent or aggressive behavior in children? Using longitudinal surveys of six months, thirteen months and two years the researchers examined several benchmarks to determine if either hypothesis led to the developmental effects found in the previous studies.
Their research shows that bedroom media is related to a host of negative outcomes in child development. They were able to show that bedroom media device access both displaced healthy activities like reading, sleep and exercise and increased the likelihood of negative content consumption. These findings were both consistent with the previous research that was cited and more specific for a cause. Media accessed in a bedroom is less likely to be monitored by parents and more likely to be violent. This increase in exposure to violent media led to an increase in aggression in the children studied. The research specifically found that bedroom media was ‘surprisingly robust in their negative outcomes, affecting school performance, BMI, Internet Gaming Disorder, physical aggression, and several mediating variables. The effects were pronounced in a range of samples that included differences in reporters, age of child, medium (TV or video games), and country of study.’ (Gentile, Berch, Choo, Khoo, & Walsh, 2017)
The longitudinal nature of the study also allowed for the finding that the negative outcomes were long term.
This study aims to see the correlation between digital media exposure and childhood flourishing. For this study childhood ‘flourishing has been categorized into indicators of physical health as well as cognitive, psychological, emotional, and social development and behavior.'(Ruest, Gjelsvik, Rubinstein, & Amanullah, 2018) Using interview surveys school-age parents answered questions about their child’s digital media exposure including television and handheld devices such as cell phones. Total media time was calculated and categorized using the AAP guidelines of less than 2 hours, 2-4, 4-6 and then greater than 6 hours. Five questions then asked and assessed were ‘do they finish all required homework, care about school performance, finish tasks, stay calm when faced with new challenges, and show interest in learning new things.'(Ruest, Gjelsvik, Rubinstein, & Amanullah, 2018) The research found several things of note, one which relates to the other study I chose, children with digital media in the bedroom had more digital media time exposure. As digital media time exposure increased, the odds of children doing well in school decreased. A similar decrease in the remaining four flourishing areas was seen. Children who spent more time exposed to media were less likely to care about school performance, finish tasks they start, handle new challenges, find new interests. This was a large, diverse study. It found two factors that led to an increase in digital media exposure when other variables were controlled, having media in the bedroom and not having parental limits on media usage.
Digital media exposure is a topic I feel parents, educators and physicians should continue to monitor. The above study concludes that some digital media exposure can be harmful to children’s development and as the landscape of digital media is always growing and changing, parents and pediatricians should have a plan in place for digital media and follow guidelines set by the AAP. The current advised limits on screen time by the American Academy of Pediatrics can be found on their website. As of 2016, the recommendations for school-age children was to focus first on the time needed for healthy tasks such as reading, exercise, sleep when calculating how much screen time to allow.
This plan can hopefully help children maintain appropriate limits on digital media exposure that will allow for healthy, balanced development. Currently, children 8 to 12 years old are estimated to spend over six hours a day using digital media. (Common Sense Media, 2015) Yes, some digital media content can be educational, but most digital media is not encouraging children’s development. I think in addition to setting limits and having a digital media plan, families should be aware of the dangers of having media in bedrooms. The beginning study allows us to see that media in the bedroom tends to be detrimental to children’s development. In any situation where the media devices can be removed from the bedroom, I believe it should be. This act will improve adherence to the family media plan and help ensure parental oversight to prevent aggressive, violent, inappropriate content.