Family, Social, Cultural, and Religious Influences on Child Health Promotion : Mass Media

Mass Media

Media Effect Potential Consequences
  • Government, medical, and public health data show exposure to media violence as one factor in violent and aggressive behavior. 
  • Both adults and children become desensitized by violence witnessed through various media, including television (including children’s programming), movies (including G-rated movies), music, and video games. In addition, cyber-bullying and harassment via text messages are a growing concern among middle school and high school students.
  • A significant body of research shows that sexual content in the media can contribute to beliefs and attitudes about sex, sexual behavior, and initiation of intercourse. 
  • Teen’s access sexual content through a variety of media: television, movies, music, magazines, Internet, social media, and mobile devices. 
  • Current issues receiving attention for the role they play in adolescent sexual behavior include sending of sexual images via mobile devices (i.e., sexting), impact of violent media on youth views of women and forced sex/rape, and cyber-bullying LGBTQI youth.
  • Media can also serve as a positive source of sexual information (i.e., information, apps, social media about sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancy, and promoting acceptance and support of LGBTQI youth).
Substance use and abuse
  • Although the causes of adolescent substance use and abuse are numerous, media plays a significant role. 
  • Alcohol and tobacco are still heavily marketed to adolescents/young adults. 
  • Television and movies featuring the use of these substances can influence initiation of use. 
  • Media also shows substance use to be pervasive and without consequences. 
  • Finally, content shared over social networking sites can serve as a form of peer pressure and can influence likelihood of use.
  • Obesity is a highly prevalent public health issue among children of all ages, and rates are increasing around the world. Several studies have demonstrated a link between the amount of screen time and obesity.
  • Advertising of unhealthy food to children is a long-standing marketing practice, which may increase snacking in the face of decreased activity. In addition, both increased screen time and unhealthy eating may also be related to unhealthy sleep.
Body image
  • Media may play a significant role in the development of body image awareness, expectations, and body dissatisfaction among young and older adolescent girls.
  • Their beliefs may be influenced by images on television, movies, and magazines.
  • New media also contributes to this through Internet images, social network sites, and websites that encourage disordered eating (e.g., pro-Ana sites)
  • Actions to promote positive media
    • Parents
      • Follow American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for 2 hours (total) of screen time daily for children 2 years of age and older.
      • Establish clear guidelines for Internet use and provide direct supervision. Have frank discussions of what youth may encounter in viewing media. Be mindful of own media use in the home.
      • Encourage unstructured play in the home, and plan to help kids readjust to this change in family dynamic. Consider planned, deliberate use of media to experience the benefits (i.e., watching a television show together to bond or start a sensitive discussion).
    • Nurses/Health Care Providers
      • Dedicate a few minutes of each visit to provide media screening and counseling. 
      • Discourage presence of electronic devices in children’s rooms.
      • Be sensitive to the challenges that parents face in carrying this out.
    • Schools
      • Offer timely, accurate sexuality and drug education.
      • Promote resilience.
      • Develop programs to educate youth on wise use of technology.
      • Develop and implement policies on dealing with cyber-bullying and sexting.


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