It is real! We, our children, all of us are immersed in this new era…the wired world era. It is definitely a difficult topic which we sometimes just prefer to ignore.  The ubiquitous presence and influence of the media is overwhelming and we often feel that we will not be able to control it.  However, as parents we need to be informed and to be prepared to guide and protect our children.

In the U.S., there is an average of 2.4 TV sets per household, 75% of the households have a computer, and 63% have Internet access.1  A high percentage of young people have their own personal media; 72% have a TV, 35% have a desktop computer, a laptop, or both, and 20% have Internet connection in their bedroom.2

The average American youth spends between 6 and 8.5 hours a day immersed in media of all sorts, and the majority of that exposure occurs outside of parental oversight.2,3  Many teens use multiple media simultaneously, such as listening to music while surfing the Web and chatting on the phone.2
Many of the children and adolescents listening to pop music, watching music videos, tuning in to television, playing computer and video games, reading magazines, viewing DVDs, cruising the Internet, and so forth, are not yet mature enough to distinguish fantasy from reality, particularly when it is presented as "real life". Even those who are older would find it difficult to perceive the non-reality of much of the content to which they are exposed.

Problems such as aggressive and violent behavior,4,56 the use of alcohol,7-9 cigarettes,10,11 early sexual initiation,12,13 obesity (not only because of sedentary behavior but because of high calorie food intake),14-16 and low school performance17,18 are just some consequences.

As parents, it is important to maintain a balance between too much freedom and too much control; how to do that often depends on the age of our children. A key decision every parent should take, however, is not to have a TV or a computer with Internet access in the child's bedroom. While it is much easier to allow these in their bedroom because it will avoid fights, having them there can cause many "headaches" and, harm, and, more important, even danger.

Recommendations for parents:

  • Place that TV and computer with Internet access at an open space.
  • It should literally face the entrance of the room you have chosen for them so that there is no opportunity to change a channel, close a page, or hide a message without your noticing.
  • Maintain open communication with your child.
  • Tell your child the good things and the not so good things about the Internet and TV programming. Both are important education and entertainment tools, but they can also cause harm. Let your child know that not all the information they find there is truthful. If you see something you don't like, do not hesitate to talk with your child about it. Establish your limits, and stick to them.
  • Start the talk at an early age
  • If your child knows how to use the mouse or the remote control, it is time to know how to make a good use of it.
  • Know the whereabouts of your child
  • Just as you are interested in knowing what your child is doing and with whom is he/she spending time when away from home, you should know with whom he/she is talking, what is he/she talking, reading, or listening to, and what he/she is watching.
  • Have control of the TV set and the computer
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents establish rules about what to watch, when to watch and use, and how much time to spend with the media. Be aware of when your child is turning the TV off or closing the connection. Limit their media exposure to less than 2 hours per day.
  • It is your house
  • Many parents are asking if they should have access to their child's on-line profile and email.
  • If they are young, the answer is yes; you need to know their passwords and have access to their profiles and email accounts.  When they are entering the adolescence (13 years old), it is important to give them their space BUT with the full commitment that if you ask them to open their email for you to read what they have there, they will do it. Think about their bedroom…it is their bedroom but it is your house.  As a parent, you can go to their room when you think is necessary. Do so periodically.  Respect is important but your children are your most precious asset; you cannot ignore signs of danger if you see them.
Reference List 
  1. US CENSUS BUREAU, . Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2003. Last updated: 2005Available: <>
  2. Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M: Media in the lives of 8-18 years-old. Last updated: 2005 [cited 2005 May 23]. Available: <>
  3. Roberts DF. Media and youth: access, exposure, and privatization. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2000;27(2 Suppl):8-14. [PM:10904200].
  4. Kaj Bjorkqvist K. Violent Films, Anxiety, and Aggression. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters; 1985.
  5. Huesmann LR, Moise-Titus J, Podolski CL, Eron LD. Longitudinal relations between children's exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977-1992. Developmental Psychology. 2003;39(2):201-221.
  6. Anderson CA, Gentile DA, Buckley KE. Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press; 2007.
  7. Stacy AW, Zogg JB, Unger JB, Dent CW. Exposure to televised alcohol ads and subsequent adolescent alcohol use. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2004;28(6):498-509. [PM:15569584].
  8. Collins RL, Ellickson PL, McCaffrey D, Hambarsoomians K. Early adolescent exposure to alcohol advertising and its relationship to underage drinking. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2007;40(6):527-534.
  9. Connolly GM, Casswell S, Zhang JF, Silva PA. Alcohol in the mass media and drinking by adolescents: A longitudinal study. Addiction. 1994;89(10):1255-1263.
  10. Biener L, Siegel M. Tobacco marketing and adolescent smoking: More support for a causal inference. American Journal of Public Health. 2000;90(3):407-411. [PM:10705860].
  11. Dalton MA, Sargent JD, Beach ML, Titus-Ernstoff L, Gibson JJ, Ahrens MB, Tickle JJ, Heatherton TF. Effect of viewing smoking in movies on adolescent smoking initiation: a cohort study. Lancet. 2003;362(9380):281-285. [PM:12892958].
  12. Collins RL, Elliott MN, Berry SH, Kanouse DE, Kunkel D, Hunter SB, Miu A. Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics. 2004;114(3):e280-e289. [PM:15342887].
  13. Martino SC, Collins RL, Elliott MN, Strachman A, Kanouse DE, Berry SH. Exposure to degrading versus nondegrading music lyrics and sexual behavior among youth. Pediatrics. 2006;118(2):e430-e441. [PM:16882784].
  14. Dietz WH, Jr., Gortmaker SL. Do we fatten our children at the television set? Obesity and television viewing in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 1985;75(5):807-812. [PM:0003873060].
  15. Robinson TN. Reducing children's television viewing to prevent obesity: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999;282(16):1561-1567. [PM:10546696].
  16. Robinson TN, Hammer LD, Killen JD, Kraemer HC, Wilson DM, Hayward C, Taylor CB. Does television viewing increase obesity and reduce physical activity? Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses among adolescent girls. Pediatrics. 1993;91(2):273-280. [PM:8424000].
  17. Acevedo-Polakovich ID, Lorch EP, Milich R, Ashby RD. Disentangling the relation between television viewing and cognitive processes in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and comparison children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2006;160(4):354-360. [PM:16585479].
  18. Sharif I, Sargent JD. Association between television, movie, and video game exposure and school performance. Pediatrics. 2006;118(4):e1061-e1070. [PM:17015499].
Other publications:

Supplement Article: Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors PEDIATRICS Vol. 116 No. 1 July 2005, pp. 303-326.

Media and Risky Behaviors. The Future of Children Vol. 18 / NO. 1 / Spring 2008