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Unplug—Don't Drug: A Critical Look at the Influence of Technology on Child Behavior With an Alternative Way of Responding Other Than Evaluation and Drugging

  • Zone'in Programs Inc.

Abstract and Figures

The past decade has seen an increase in personal use of electronic technology, with childhood television and video game use similarly increasing. Critical milestones for child motor and sensory development are not being met. Simultaneously, there is an increasing incidence of childhood physical, psychological, and behavior disorders, often accompanied by the prescription of psychotropic medication. One in six children exhibit signs of poor health, mental stress, or problems at school. Exposure to an average of 8 hours per day of various forms of technology use has resulted in a physically sedentary yet chaotically stressed existence for Canadian children. The detrimental effects of technology use on critical milestones for child development are reviewed. This commentary by apediatric occupational therapist outlines issues of concern for parents, family physicians, and pediatricians related to these trends and offers a novel treatment approach: Unplug—Don't Drug.
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Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 12, Number 1, 2010
60 © 2010 Springer Publishing Company
DOI: 10.1891/1559-4343.12.1.60
Unplug — Don’t Drug:
A Critical Look at the Infl uence
of Technology on Child Behavior
With an Alternative Way of Responding
Other Than Evaluation and Drugging
Cris Rowan
Zone’in Programs Inc., and
Sunshine Coast Occupational Therapy Inc.
Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada
The past decade has seen an increase in personal use of electronic technology, with
childhood television and video game use similarly increasing. Critical milestones for
child motor and sensory development are not being met. Simultaneously, there is an
increasing incidence of childhood physical, psychological, and behavior disorders, often
accompanied by the prescription of psychotropic medication. One in six children exhibit
signs of poor health, mental stress, or problems at school. Exposure to an average of
8 hours per day of various forms of technology use has resulted in a physically sedentary
yet chaotically stressed existence for Canadian children. The detrimental effects of tech-
nology use on critical milestones for child development are reviewed. This commentary
by a pediatric occupational therapist outlines issues of concern for parents, family physi-
cians, and pediatricians related to these trends and offers a novel treatment approach:
Unplug — Don’t Drug.
Keywords: developmental delay; child behavior management; technology addictions;
overmedication of children; balanced technology management
A 7-year-old boy was brought to his family physician’s offi ce by his mother at the urging
of his school. In attendance was his four 4-year-old sister. Discussion with the boy’s
mother indicated that although his reading was at age level, the boy apparently had
great diffi culty producing school work and listening or paying attention in class and
was reportedly “disruptive” and “aggressive.” The mother stated that her son had few
friends, preferring instead to spend his time alone in his room watching television or
playing video games. Initial assessment indicated that the son appeared pale with dark
circles under his eyes, slightly obese, lethargic, and noncommunicative. Following a
short period of questioning, the son became confrontational and combative with both
the physician and his mother, abruptly leaving the physician’s offi ce and returning to the
Reviewing the Impact of Technology on Child Development and Behavior 61
waiting room. As the mother began to apologize for her son’s behavior, the physician
began to take notice of the boy’s 4-year-old sister, who was positioned behind the mother.
When questioned regarding her daughter’s health, the mother responded that the daugh-
ter frequently became upset and demonstrated high anxiety when experiencing normal
everyday events. The mother went on to report that her daughter woke frequently in the
night “screaming,” was overly sensitive to noise and light, and appeared to be “hooked”
on cartoons— watching up to 6 hours per day.
It wasn’t all that long ago that children were brought to their family physicians for fractures
or lacerations sustained from falling out of trees or off bicycles. Today’s offi ce visits are dif-
ferent. Physicians are now assessing and treating a variety of physical, psychological, and
behavioral disorders in children that appear to be escalating at an alarming rate. One in
six Canadian children have a diagnosed developmental disability (Hamilton, 2006), one
in six are obese (Canadian Institute of Health Research, 2004), and 14.3% have a diag-
nosed psychiatric disorder (Waddell Hua, Garland, DeV, & McEwan, 2007). School-based
occupational therapists observe increasing referrals of students to family physicians by their
teachers for either attention impairments or learning diffi culties. Subsequent child behav-
iors associated with these problems may be confusing for parents and teachers as well as
the medical community and could be easily misunderstood, possibly resulting in psychiatric
diagnosis and prescription of psychotropic medication (Mandell et al., 2008; Mukaddes,
Bilge, Alyanak, & Kora, 2000; Ruff 2005). Between 1991 and 1995, prescriptions for psy-
chotropic medications in the 2- to 4-year-old toddler population, as well as in children and
youth, tripled (dosReis et al., 2005; Goodwin, Gould, Blanco, & Olfson, 2001; Zito et al.,
2000; Zito et al., 2002), with 80% of this medication prescribed by family physicians and
pediatricians (Zito et al., 2003). Twenty-eight percent to 30% of children receiving psycho-
tropic medication are on multiple medications (dosReis, 2005). Limited evidence guiding
appropriate dosing and inexperience in the documentation of long-term effects of these
prescriptions in children may mean that these children undergo unquantifi ed risks (Rosack,
2003; Kirsch & Antonuccio, 2004; Thomas, Conrad, Casler, & Goodman, 2006).
Throughout most of human history, child engagement in rough-and-tumble outdoor
play resulted in the achievement of adequate sensory and motor development required
for attention and learning (Ayres, 1972; Pelligrini & Bohn, 2005; Tannock, 2008).
Increased usage of advanced technology has resulted in a physically sedentary society
with sensory stimuli consisting of high frequency, duration, and intensity (Louv, 2005).
Parents now spend 40% less time with their children than they did in the 1970s
(Castro & Hewlett, 1991), impacting attachment development and socialization train-
ing. Children now immerse themselves for long durations in a virtual and often violent
world, disconnecting from the world of physical play and meaningful interactions. In
occupational therapy settings, children who overuse technology have described physical
sensations of “body shaking,” rapid heart rate and breathing, and hyperacute vision and
62 Rowan
hearing. As these symptoms are typically associated with chronic high-adrenalin states
in adults, one cannot help but wonder if technology overuse is creating chronic stress
states in children. The three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child
development are movement, touch, and connection to other humans (Insel & Young,
2001; Korkman, 2001; Montagu, 1972). Developing children require 3 to 4 hours per
day of unstructured, active rough-and-tumble play to achieve adequate stimulation to
the vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile sensory systems (National Association for
Sport and Physical Education, 2002). This type of sensory input ensures normal devel-
opment of core posture, bilateral coordination, and optimal arousal states (Braswell &
Rine, 2006). Infants with low tone, toddlers failing to reach motor milestones, and
children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic foundation skills for literacy
are now frequent visitors to pediatric physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech
and language therapy clinics.
North American children now average 8 hours per day using a combination of non–
school-related technologies (television, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones,
iPods, and other devices), with over 65% of children having televisions in their bedrooms
(Nielsenwire, 2009; Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella, 2003; Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, &
Brodie, 1999). Active Healthy Kids Canada gave Canadian children a grade of D for
inactivity, citing television and video games as the primary cause (Active Healthy Kids
Canada, 2008). “Baby television” now occupies 2.2 hours per day for the 0- to 2-year-old
population and 4.5 hours per day for 3- to 5-year-olds, and 60% of households have the
television on all day (Nielsenwire, 2009; Rideout et al., 2003), as do a growing number of
restaurants, cars, and even physicians’ waiting rooms. Parents who perceive outdoor play
as “unsafe” allow higher usages of technology, further limiting access to developmental
components usually attained in outdoor rough-and-tumble play (Burdette & Whitaker,
2006 ). Continuous use of technology has pervaded 21st-century society, but at what cost
to child health and academic performance?
Technology overuse by young children is associated with developmental delays ( Thakkar,
Garrison, & Christakis, 2006; Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007), prompting
France to ban its broadcasters from airing television shows aimed at children under 3 years
of age (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008). Incidence of infant “fl at head” has
increased 600% in the past 5 years, with over two-thirds of physiotherapists in the United
States reporting increasing incidence of infant “low tone” and subsequent failure to reach
motor milestones ( Jennings, 2005). Television and video game use is evidenced to be a
factor accounting for 60% of childhood obesity and is now considered a North American
“epidemic” by physicians (Tremblay & Willms, 2005; Strauss & Pollack, 2001). Addi-
tional studies indicate technology overuse by children may be associated with attention
Reviewing the Impact of Technology on Child Development and Behavior 63
diffi culties, poor academic achievement, and sleep impairment (Christakis & Zimmerman,
2007; Hancox, Milne, & Poulton, 2005; Paavonen, Pennonen, & Roine, 2006). Dr. Dimi-
tri Christakis found that each hour of television watched daily between the ages of 0 and
7 years equated to a 10% chance of attention problems by age 7 years (Christakis, Zimmer-
man, DiGiuseppe, & McCarty, 2004). While physical exercise has been repeatedly shown
to signifi cantly improve academic performance (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008) and access to
“green space” signifi cantly reduces attention defi cit/ hyperactivity disorder and improves
attention (Faber Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2001; Kuo & Faber Taylor, 2004), schools con-
tinue to allow unrestricted technology use during recess and are allowing playgrounds to
fall into disrepair. While no one can argue the benefi ts of advancing technology in today’s
world, many children are spending their days alone in dark rooms perfecting the “art of
killing.” Desensitized to violence and lacking empathy, today’s child who overuses tech-
nology is hardwiring his or her brain for violent high-speed and fast-paced action, resulting
in an unprecedented rise in child aggression, violence and crime (Anderson & Gentile,
2007; Anderson et al., 2008; Buchanan, Gentile, Nelson, Walsh, & Hensel, 2002; Murray
et al., 2006). In the United States, the Academies of Physicians, Pediatricians, Psycholo-
gists, and Psychiatrists have joined with the American Medical Association to classify
media violence as a public health risk because of its impact on child aggression, with even-
tual plans to legislate the regulation of media violence allowed for viewing by children
(Anderson et al., 2003). Neural pathway formation in children who overuse technology
is “short-circuiting” the frontal cortex, permanently altering the way children think and
behave, creating unimaginable problems for the education and penal systems (Small &
Vorgan, 2008; Ybarra et al., 2008). Twenty-fi ve percent of elementary-aged children have
been cyberbullied (verbally bullied online), increasing their risk of carrying a weapon to
school by eight times (Kowalski & Limber, 2007; Ybarra, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2007).
Young children who “sextext” (e-mail nude photos using cell phones) are being arrested
for distribution of child pornography (Garfi nkle, 2008). These “crimes of technology”
indicate that many children do not have the maturity or the parental guidance to use
technology in a safe and responsible manner.
In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement rec-
ommending that children less than 2 years of age not watch any television or play any
video games (AAP, 2001). The AAP further recommended that children older than 2
should restrict usage to 1 to 2 hours per day (AAP, 2006). Relying on parents to impose
technology restrictions on their children may not be effective, as child technology usage
patterns often follow that of their parents (Jordan, Hersey, McDivitt, & Heitzler, 2006).
Furthermore, evidence suggests some parents may have technology addictions (Horvath,
2004). Adult Internet addiction has been proposed for inclusion in the fi fth edition of
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Block, 2008). These conditions
support consideration of a routine family technology usage history by primary care physi-
cians, pediatricians, child psychologists, and psychiatrists. One option physicians may
wish to consider when assessing and treating children who overuse technology might be
an initial recommendation of lessening exposure to technology while also encouraging
adequate movement, touch, and human connection. Known as “balanced technology
64 Rowan
management,” recommendations might follow the guideline of an “hour in equals an
hour out”; for example, every hour of technology use is balanced with activities that
children need for healthy development and academic success. When assessing children
with signifi cant psychiatric or behavior disorders who also overuse technology, physicians
might consider recommending a technology “family unplug” prior to lengthy diagnos-
tic procedures and/or use of psychotropic medication. Such a trial could require child
and family undergo a 3-month period of unplugging from all forms of technology, such
as television, video games, movies, iPods, the Internet, and cell phones (other than as
required for school and work purposes). Achieving balance between critical factors for
child growth and success, with use of technology, may reduce the increasing trend to
evaluate and medicate child behavior. See Figure 1.
In conclusion, evidence suggests that parents and schools allow young children extended
periods of unrestricted access to various forms of technology. Further evidence suggests
FIGURE 1. For physicians: Prescription pad graphic.
Reviewing the Impact of Technology on Child Development and Behavior 65
that parents are increasingly presenting their children to physicians for assessment of
complex behavior disorders that may be linked to the physical inactivity and sensory
hypostimulation inherent in the overuse of technology. Physician routine monitoring of
technology use through application of a family technology usage history would be a start
toward achieving eventual balanced technology management and signifi cantly improve
the health and academic performance of children. Children with high technology usage
may benefi t from a technology “unplug” trial of 1 month prior to behavior diagnosis and
prescription of psychotropic medication. Medical professionals may consider support of
school-based media literacy programs, which have proven effective in reducing technol-
ogy use and obesity (Robinson, 1999). Recommendations for family disconnection from
technology and reconnection with each other and nature would go a long way toward
reversing these worrisome societal trends.
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Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to Cris Rowan, CEO, Zone’in Programs Inc.
and Sunshine Coast Occupational Therapy Inc., 6840 Seaview Road, Sechelt, British Columbia
V0N3A4, Canada. E-mail:
... "The past decade has seen an increase in personal use of electronic technology, with childhood television and video game use similarly increasing. The instant accessibility and portability of mobile devices make them potentially more likely to displace human interactions and other enriching activities" [13]. ...
... The fact that these digital devices allow access to information and applications can be both positive and negative in the development of children and youths alike, because skills such as "self-regulation, empathy, social skills, and problem-solving" [13] are primarily learned when children explore the nature around them, interact with other people and play in creative ways. This being said, children's motor and sensory development is being delayed and there are more and more children with disorders (physical, psychological, among others). ...
... Accordingly [13], "The three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child development are movement, touch and connection to other humans". ...
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... colleagues for their "heart work" (Kendrick 2018, 80) with students can provide the encouragement they need in order to persevere with implementing reform. effects of technology use have crept into the lives of our children, who spend an average of eight hours per day using technology (cellphones, tablets, televisions, computers) and are experiencing various developmental delays that have been attributed to this use (Rowan 2010). Technostress is a relatively new term that describes technology overuse. ...
... We know that screen time has been linked to developmental delays, as well as documented symptoms such as headache, anxiety, panic, mental fatigue, joint pain and insomnia Rowan 2010). It is important to note that Internet addiction and excessive use of online communication have been found to be a direct result of psychological stress (Jiang, Schmillen and Sullivan 2018). ...
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... This can be attributed to the fact that they find great utility in this usage. Consequently, these children consider themselves more competent and receive a positive reward for such behavior (30). Nonetheless, this perception is usually false. ...
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Background: Pre-school children use digital devices both at home and in kindergarten for communication. However, such technologies can also be used for creativity learning and entertainment. Technology usage might exert a negative impact on the psychosocial development of pre-school children, thus necessitating parental monitoring. Previous studies have recommended early intervention for pre-school children by decreasing the duration of digital devices, spending more time with the family, and participation in motor activities to avoid the ill effects of technology. Aim: To investigate the impact of digital device use on the behavioral and sleep scores of preschool children as perceived by parents in Saudi Arabia (SA). Method: This cross-sectional study was conducted across two regions in SA. It was ethically approved by the ethical review board of Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. The participants were randomly selected from well-baby hospital records, surveyed and interviewed to obtain data for the following measures: demographic data, technology usage, sleep disturbance scale, and behavior scale. Children with special needs or comorbidities were excluded from the study. Descriptive and multivariate regression analysis were done. Results: We recruited 288 children. Most did not attend schools (63.2%), 22.6% were in kindergarten, and 14.2% were in nursery schools. Smart phones were the most commonly used device by the children (42.4%). Most used the technology for 2–3 h/days (34%). Cartoons were the most commonly sought content (42%). The behavior scores for children aged 18–36 months showed a mean value of 5.1, 3.7, and 4.6 for surgency, negative affect, and effortful control, respectively. Children aged 3–5 years showed a mean value of 4.3, 4, and 4.7 for surgency, negative affect, and effortful control, respectively. Sleep disturbance scores for all children showed a mean value of 12.4, 3.5, 3.8, 8, 7.3, and 2.7 on disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep, sleep-breathing disorders, disorders of arousal, sleep-wake transition disorders, disorders of excessive somnolence, and sleep hyperhidrosis, respectively. The mean total sleep score was 37. Multivariate regression analysis showed significant positive relationship between surgency and three factors namely family income of 10,000–15,000 SR (t = 1.924, p = 0.045), fathers' bachelor's degrees (t = 2.416, p = 0.16), and owning a video game device (t = 2.826, p = 0.005<0.05). Negative affect was significantly associated with fathers' diploma level of education (t = 2.042, p = 0.042). Negative significant relationship between effortful control and fathers' secondary level of education (t = −2.053, p = 0.041). There was a significant negative relationship between effortful control and owning a TV and video game device (t = −2.35, −2.855, p = 0.043, 0.005<0.05, respectively). A significant positive relationship was found between child's sleeping score (worse sleep) and watching technology between 3 and 5 h (t = 2.01, p = 0.045), and mothers' unemployment status (t = 2.468, p = 0.014). Conclusion: In conclusion, technology use is associated with a negative impact on children sleep and behavior. Owning a digital device, using tablets, screen viewing for more than 3–5 h, and watching movies were significantly associated with negative child's behavior and sleep.
... There is no doubt that technology has become a big part of our lives. For example, the average time that North American children use technology for non-school related purpose is 8 hours per day (Rowan, 2010). It is not only the children of the United States that rely heavily on electronic devices: dependency on the Internet is a worldwide epidemic (Jiang & Leung, 2012;Young, 2011;Young, Yue, & Ying, 2011). ...
... The divergent preferences of lecturers and students in relation to decoration can be interpreted through the generational gap in addition to the difference in roles. Many scholars have observed that exposure to technological devices might be leading a greater need for stimulation among contemporary youth (Goleman, 2013;Rowan, 2010aRowan, , 2010b. If this is not properly tackled, it could make it more difficult for contemporary youth to concentrate on tasks, thereby having detrimental effects on many areas of their lives, including academic achievement. ...
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The design, facilities and conditions inside a classroom play a significant role in the teaching and learning experience for both students and lecturers. Prior studies of primary schoolchildren indicate three design principles affecting student learning, namely: naturalness, individualisation and stimulation. The current study extends these investigations to Higher Education through a survey of undergraduate students and university lecturers aimed at determining the most critical factors in undergraduate classroom design. One-to-one interviews were conducted with students and lecturers (n. 31) at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus. Interviewees were encouraged to express their opinions, comments, concerns and suggestions through open-ended questions. The interviews were recorded and then transcribed and coded using NVivo10. Results show a strong desire among lecturers and students for improved classroom equipment, greater flexibility in classroom arrangement, more attractive decoration and for the addition of natural elements to the classroom environment. Of the three design principles, individualisation and naturalness emerged most strongly from the interviews and appear to be more important factors for undergraduates than stimulation. These findings could make a novel and significant contribution to the physical aspects of classroom design in Higher Education settings. Educational institutions are increasingly employing non-traditional classroom designs, which are expected to provide for more flexible, collaborative, and active learning and teaching experiences. Taking into consideration the environmental psychology of teaching and learning, several of the reported design attributes can serve as benchmarks for upgrading current classroom design and facilities in the future, as institutions look to upgrade their physical infrastructures to meet the changing demands of teachers and learners arising from technological innovations and shifts in our understanding of the methods and purposes of Higher Education.
... 650-658, ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. © less time than ever in nature, fewer hours observing its complexity and processes, and instead, dedicate an almost excessive amount of time to screen technology (Rowan, 2010). Technology used for educational purposes, such as the TTOL database, may become muddled experiences, with students becoming adrift in the onslaught of apps and easy online access. ...
Combining the TimeTree of Life database with the skill set of a naturalist, transitional changes, speciation, and evolutionary concepts emerge as a process in which students create and are fully engaged in a narrative & theme-based lesson plan/lab that merges with a scientific drawing experience that shadows the life of the naturalist and author Vladimir Nabokov. The interdisciplinary story and science of Nabokov offer a glimpse into applied arts as an exploratory scientific practice that encourages creativity and evolutionary thinking. © 2018 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic technologies have become nearly ubiquitous. In some ways, the developments have likely helped us, but in other ways sophisticated technologies set back our interests. Among the latter sort is what has been dubbed the ‘severance problem’—the idea that technologies sever our connection to the world, a connection which is necessary for us to flourish and live meaningful lives. I grant that the severance problem is a threat we should mitigate and I ask: how can we stave it off? In particular, the fact that some technologies exhibit behavior that is unclear to us seems to constitute a kind of severance. Building upon contemporary work on moral responsibility, I argue for a mechanism I refer to as ‘technological answerability’, namely the capacity to recognize human demands for answers and to respond accordingly. By designing select devices—such as robotic assistants and personal AI programs—for increased answerability, we see at least one way of satisfying our demands for answers and thereby retaining our connection to a world increasingly occupied by technology.
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The book 'Educational School Challenges in the Digital Age' was published in April 2019 in the Slovenian language. The content offers a holistic and thorough view of the impact of digital technology on the development of children and young people. It values the influence of new technologies and countless possibilities and their use in the educational process. However, to achieve the main goal of education today, which is still the integral growth of a person, the book emphasises the new challenge of today’s education. The author proposes to follow four main values: self-esteem, critical thinking, creativity and community. The content includes the following chapters: Cultural Context, School in the Digital Environment, Development of Brains, Impact of Digital Technologies on Cognitive, Emotional, Social, and Moral Development of Children, Education as a Part of Schooling, Religious Education as a Support to Schooling, Specific Educational Features of Catholic Schools, Research Analysis about the Role of Religion and Values in Slovenian Catholic Schools.
Children today (who live in a modern and digital society) experience the greatest disconnection from nature than any generation in history. This chapter examines how the separation from nature, coupled with being heavily indoctrinated into the web of technology, is linked to many of the common ailments that children suffer from today including ADHD and attentional problems, depression, anxiety, obesity, and impaired social development. Clinical interventions are presented for how therapists can incorporate nature into the therapy process with children and families, both as an antidote to nature deficit, and also because engagement with nature tends to be therapeutic even in cases where nature deficit is not part of the presenting issue.
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The authors suggest that the recess period serves a positive purpose in the primary school curriculum, counter to the current practice of minimizing recess in many schools across North America and the United Kingdom. The authors' position is embedded in the larger debate about school accountability; they argue that school policy should be based on the best theory and empirical evidence available. They support their argument for the importance of recess with theory and with experimental and longitudinal data showing how recess breaks maximize children's cognitive performance and adjustment to school.
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Research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. The effects appear larger for milder than for more severe forms of aggression, but the effects on severe forms of violence are also substantial ( r = .13 to .32) when compared with effects of other violence risk factors or medical effects deemed important by the medical community (e.g., effect of aspirin on heart attacks). The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings. The evidence is clearest within the most extensively researched domain, television and film violence. The growing body of video-game research yields essentially the same conclusions. Short-term exposure increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions. Recent large-scale longitudinal studies provide converging evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression later in life, including physical assaults and spouse abuse. Because extremely violent criminal behaviors (e.g., forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide) are rare, new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence. Well-supported theory delineates why and when exposure to media violence increases aggression and violence. Media violence produces short-term increases by priming existing aggressive scripts and cognitions, increasing physiological arousal, and triggering an automatic tendency to imitate observed behaviors. Media violence produces long-term effects via several types of learning processes leading to the acquisition of lasting (and automatically accessible) aggressive scripts, interpretational schemas, and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and by reducing individuals' normal negative emotional responses to violence (i.e., desensitization). Certain characteristics of viewers (e.g., identification with aggressive characters), social environments (e.g., parental influences), and media content (e.g., attractiveness of the perpetrator) can influence the degree to which media violence affects aggression, but there are some inconsistencies in research results. This research also suggests some avenues for preventive intervention (e.g., parental supervision, interpretation, and control of children's media use). However, extant research on moderators suggests that no one is wholly immune to the effects of media violence. Recent surveys reveal an extensive presence of violence in modern media. Furthermore, many children and youth spend an inordinate amount of time consuming violent media. Although it is clear that reducing exposure to media violence will reduce aggression and violence, it is less clear what sorts of interventions will produce a reduction in exposure. The sparse research literature suggests that counterattitudinal and parental-mediation interventions are likely to yield beneficial effects, but that media literacy interventions by themselves are unsuccessful. Though the scientific debate over whether media violence increases aggression and violence is essentially over, several critical tasks remain. Additional laboratory and field studies are needed for a better understanding of underlying psychological processes, which eventually should lead to more effective interventions. Large-scale longitudinal studies would help specify the magnitude of media-violence effects on the most severe types of violence. Meeting the larger societal challenge of providing children and youth with a much healthier media diet may prove to be more difficult and costly, especially if the scientific, news, public policy, and entertainment communities fail to educate the general public about the real risks of media-violence exposure to children and youth.
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Attention Restoration Theory suggests that contact with nature supports attentional functioning, and a number of studies have found contact with everyday nature to be related to attention in adults. Is contact with everyday nature also related to the attentional functioning of children? This question was addressed through a study focusing on children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This study examined the relationship between children’s nature exposure through leisure activities and their attentional functioning using both within and between-subjects comparisons. Parents were surveyed regarding their child’s attentional functioning after activities in several settings. Results indicate that children function better than usual after activities in green settings and that the “greener” a child’s play area, the less severe his or her attention deficit symptoms. Thus, contact with nature may support attentional functioning in a population of children who desperately need attentional support.
Context Some observational studies have found an association between television viewing and child and adolescent adiposity.Objective To assess the effects of reducing television, videotape, and video game use on changes in adiposity, physical activity, and dietary intake.Design Randomized controlled school-based trial conducted from September 1996 to April 1997.Setting Two sociodemographically and scholastically matched public elementary schools in San Jose, Calif.Participants Of 198 third- and fourth-grade students, who were given parental consent to participate, 192 students (mean age, 8.9 years) completed the study.Intervention Children in 1 elementary school received an 18-lesson, 6-month classroom curriculum to reduce television, videotape, and video game use.Main Outcome Measures Changes in measures of height, weight, triceps skinfold thickness, waist and hip circumferences, and cardiorespiratory fitness; self-reported media use, physical activity, and dietary behaviors; and parental report of child and family behaviors. The primary outcome measure was body mass index, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.Results Compared with controls, children in the intervention group had statistically significant relative decreases in body mass index (intervention vs control change: 18.38 to 18.67 kg/m2 vs 18.10 to 18.81 kg/m2, respectively; adjusted difference −0.45 kg/m2 [95% confidence interval {CI}, −0.73 to −0.17]; P=.002), triceps skinfold thickness (intervention vs control change: 14.55 to 15.47 mm vs 13.97 to 16.46 mm, respectively; adjusted difference, −1.47 mm [95% CI, −2.41 to −0.54]; P=.002), waist circumference (intervention vs control change: 60.48 to 63.57 cm vs 59.51 to 64.73 cm, respectively; adjusted difference, −2.30 cm [95% CI, −3.27 to −1.33]; P<.001), and waist-to-hip ratio (intervention vs control change: 0.83 to 0.83 vs 0.82 to 0.84, respectively; adjusted difference, −0.02 [95% CI, −0.03 to −0.01]; P<.001). Relative to controls, intervention group changes were accompanied by statistically significant decreases in children's reported television viewing and meals eaten in front of the television. There were no statistically significant differences between groups for changes in high-fat food intake, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness.Conclusions Reducing television, videotape, and video game use may be a promising, population-based approach to prevent childhood obesity.