While media will always have its benefits, as a whole, society is reaping more harm than good from it. This is why we must pay close attention to not only how much time we are spending watching and engaging in media; we must also pay close attention to the content we are viewing and allowing our families to view.
One cannot deny the truth that what we put into our minds affects our thoughts, emotions and behavior. This truth is proven through advertising campaigns alone! This is most easily witnessed through children. Having raised 9 of my own, I can attest to the difference there is in walking through the cereal aisle with children who are not exposed to television ads and those that have been exposed to them! The majority of food advertisements found on television are for presweetened cereal, sweets of all kinds including soft drinks, and fast food establishments. Adults are just as easily swayed by what they are told is hot and what is not. This type of marketing along with the extended time spent sitting still either watching television or engaging in some form of social media or game play is wreaking havoc with our overall health. Obesity in both children and adults is increasing at an alarming rate. (Influence on the health and well-being of children and youth, 2003)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that children 2 years old and younger should not be exposed to television at all. Their reasoning stems from the fact that the first two years of life are when a child develops critical thinking skills. According to an article they published, they explain that “electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.” (AAP)
When it comes to children who are 2 years and older, the AAP feels that it is important to not only limit the time spent in front of television; parents must pay close attention to the content. Too much television as well as negative content has been proven to be detrimental to children. The AAP also states that when children spend 4 hours or more watching TV, they are more likely to become overweight. They also found that children who view violent content not only tended to be more aggressive themselves, they also had a higher fear that something bad might happen to them; proving that violent content affects children mentally and physically. (AAP)
In a study looking at the psychological effects of viewing negative news items, the research team involved discovered that the participants that viewed the negative news items were significantly more anxious and sadder than those who viewed either the neutral news or the positive news. On top of that, they were also more likely to enlarge their worries. (Graham C.L. Davey, The Psychological Effects of TV News, 2012)
A more recent study of the social media platform, specifically having been focused on Facebook, shows that Facebook has the power to affect a person’s mood. According to a study where the research team focused on weather patterns and the effect they played on people’s moods, they discovered that where it rained, people tended to feel down. When this happened, the people who were dealing with rain, tended to write more negative posts. This had a trickle down effect. Friends of negative posters, tended to be pulled into their own bad mood even when their own weather was nice. Interestingly, they also found that people who had a majority of positive posters were more positive themselves! This proves that what you see and read has an affect on how you feel. Recently, I discovered this truth for myself. Due to required reading for a college class, I had to not only view disturbing articles, I had to think deeply on them and then write reports. One particular essay disturbed my thoughts and affected me mentally for over two weeks! (physchcentral.com)
Another study found that platforms such as Facebook can actually cause people to become miserable. Through the study it was discovered that the amount of use had a direct effect on the user’s state of mind. The results showed that the more time a person spent on Facebook, the more their state of well being declined. (physchcentral.com)
Another study showed that Facebook tends to increase the anxiety levels of its users; so much so that their sleep patterns were being affected. The increase is credited to the constant need for posting updates as well as the increasing need to know what might have been recently posted by others. This desire can cause one to begin thinking it is necessary to constantly check their accounts. With time constraints already pressing on most people, the need to spend more time on Facebook as well as other social media platforms can overwhelm its users. (Physchcentral.com)
A follow up study found that using social media such as Facebook tends to make people feel inadequate. This feeling of inadequacy contributes to higher levels of anxiety. Additional studies have found that programs such as Facebook can increase the amount of social anxiety. They originally thought that by getting to know someone on social media and then meeting them in person would decrease this type of anxiety, but the research has proven otherwise! (physchcentral.com)
If all of this were not alarming enough to our own personal well being, through media of all types including music, studies show ample evidence of the sexualization of women. Further research ties sexualization to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression or depressed moods. With so much exposure to media images, girls believe that what they see is how they should look and act to be desired or worthy of a man’s attention. There is even evidence from studies showing that men being exposed to a very narrow aspect of what the world sees as attractive, may find it hard to be pleased by any partners that don’t fit into the current media projection of what makes a women worth fighting for. (American Psychological Association)
According to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, our analytical and critical thinking skills are on the decline because technology is playing a bigger role in our lives. (UCLA Newsroom)
It is true that media has been around long before our generation ever came to be. There is historical proof of advertising dating back to Ancient Greece. (wikipedia) There really is no way you can completely avoid media. The Holy Bible in all honesty is a form of media. Everyone has to recognize that there are indeed positives that we can gain as a society from the various sources. When we search out what the Word of God has to say when it comes to what we put in our minds, we find advice such as this:
Romans 12:2 NIV: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is ~ his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Not only does this verse enlighten us that this world has a pattern and that pattern is not a good thing for us to follow, we are told that one can indeed renew their mind. With the knowledge of how we can be affected negatively by all media, we must pay close attention to what we allow ourselves to focus on. This truth is highlighted in the following book of the Holy Bible:
Philippians 4:8-9 NIV: Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ~ if anything is excellent or praise worthy ~ think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me ~ put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
With so much evidence proving beyond a shadow of doubt that media as a whole can be detrimental to our well being, we need to use our critical thinking skills to analyze what is good for us and what is not.
AAP, reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD, October 2011, http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html
1Department of Psychiatry, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Pediatrics and School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario;
2The Hospital for Sick Children, Bloorview Children’s Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario;
3Department of Family Medicine, Ottawa Hospital Civic Site, Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario;
4Alberta Children’s Hospital, Rockyview General Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta;
5Media Awareness Network, Ottawa, Ontario Correspondence: Ms Jan D’Arcy, Media Awareness Network, 1500 Merivale Road, 3rd Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K2E 6Z5. Telephone 613-224-6892, fax 613-224-1958, e-mail ac.ssenerawa-aidem@ycradj, 2003, Pulsus Group Inc. All rights reserved
Graham C.L. Davey, The Psychological Effects of TV News, 2012, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news;
Maldonado, M. (2014). The Anxiety of Facebook. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-anxiety-of-facebook/
Stuart Wolpert, January 27, 2009, http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/is-technology-producing-a-decline-79127
The Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV, 2011, Zondervon Publishing