Research Reveals – Chapter Thirteen


An Extensive Look at Media and Youth
The Kaiser Family Foundation undertook a comprehensive study on the use of media among American youth, entitled, “Generation M2, Media in the lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds”.The study was done on a sample of over 2,000 young people, from ages eight to eighteen, and was published in 2010. It covered a whole array of media such as TV, computers, video games, music, print, cell phones and movies. We extracted some of their frightening findings:[i]

  • For purposes of comparison, young people were grouped into categories of heavy, moderate and light media users. Heavy users are those who consume more than 16 hours of media content in a typical day (21% of children from eight to eighteen); moderate users are those who consume from 3–16 hours of content (63%); light users are those who consume less than three hours of media in a typical day (17%).
  • Nearly half (47%) of all heavy media users say they usually get fair or poor grades (mostly C’s or lower), compared to 23% of light media users. Heavy media users are also more likely to say they get into trouble a lot, are often sad or unhappy, and say they are bored. Moreover, the relationships between media exposure and grades, and between media exposure and personal contentment, withstood controls for other possibly relevant factors such as age, gender, race, parent education, and single vs. two-parent households. This study could not establish whether there is a cause and effect relationship between media use and grades, or between media use and personal contentment. If there are such relationships, they could well run in both directions simultaneously.
  • Children who live in homes that limit media opportunities spend less time with media. For example, children whose parents do not put a TV in their bedroom, do not leave the TV on during meals or in the background when no one is watching, and do impose media-related rules spend substantially less time with media than do those who are not limited in the choices they make about screen time.
  • Over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by an hour and seventeen minutes daily, from an already worrying six hours and twenty-one minutes to a staggering seven hours and thirty-eight minutes! Considering that young people use media seven days a week instead of five, this means that they are spending 54 hours a week on media, more time than most adults spend at work!
  • Just under half (45%) of all eight to eighteen-year-olds say they live in a home where the TV is left on most of the time, whether anyone is watching or not, and 64% say the TV is usually on in their household during meals. The percentage of young people reporting a TV on most of the time and a TV usually on during meals has remained relatively constant over the last decade.
  • In a typical day, 46% of eight to eighteen-year-olds report sending text messages on a cell phone. Those who do text estimate that they send an average of 118 messages in a typical day. On average, 7th–12th graders report spending about an hour and a half engaged in sending and receiving texts.
  • The gender difference in computer time only begins to appear in the teenage years. Boys and girls start out spending equal amounts of time on a computer, but a disparity develops over time. Among fifteen to eighteen-year-olds, there is a gap of about 40 minutes between the genders (two hours for boys, and roughly an hour and twenty minutes for girls). One clear reason for the disparity in this age group is that girls lose interest in computer games as they enter their teenage years, while boys do not. Girls go from an average of 12 minutes a day playing computer games when they are in the eight to ten-year-old group, to just three minutes a day by the time they are fifteen to eighteen years old; there is no such decrease among boys.
  • Only a relatively small proportion of eight to eighteen-year-olds say they have any rules about music listening: 26% say they have rules about what types of music they are allowed to listen to, and 10% say they have rules about how much time they can spend listening to music. The proportion with rules about which music they can listen to decreases substantially by age, going from nearly half (47%) of all eight to ten-year-olds to 27% of eleven to fourteen-year-olds to just 12% of all fifteen to eighteen-year-olds.

Another noteworthy study was conducted in Singapore, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (2009), which found the strongest factor associated with early teenage sexual intercourse for male adolescents was viewing pornography between 14 and 19 years of age. This finding agreed with another study conducted in Sweden with boys between 17-21 years of age. In addition, of the boys who viewed pornography, 59% used computers, 19% used videos, and 14% made use of mobile phones.[ii]

Dangers of Excessive Media Exposure
From a number of national (US-based) surveys, we found the following:

Parent Further, a search institute resource for families, warns of excessive computer and other media exposure.[iii]

According to one study, nearly 1 in 10 young gamers displayed behavior patterns similar to addiction.[iv]

According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than four hours of TV each day (or 28 hours per week, or two months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent nine years glued to the tube.[v]

Below are some statistics compiled by TV-Free America:

  • The number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • The number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • The percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79%

In his book, Take Back Your Kids, William Doherty wrote:

During the 7-8pm time slot (once defined as family hour), 80% of television shows use four letter words, and 60% refer to sex.[vi]

During all the prime time slots, 74% of all TV shows contain sexual content.[vii]

Children are exposed to an estimated 10,000 food advertisements per year, mostly on TV.[viii]

Media Awareness Network, has this to say about the effects of Media on children:[ix]

Rowell Huesmann reviewed studies conducted in Australia, Finland, Poland, Israel, Netherlands and the United States. He reports, “The child most likely to be aggressive would be the one who (a) watches violent television programs most of the time, (b) believes that these shows portray life just as it is, [and] (c) identifies strongly with the aggressive characters in the shows.”[x]

A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2003 found that nearly half (47%) of parents with children between the ages of four and six report that their children have imitated aggressive behaviors from TV.  However, it is interesting to note that children are more likely to mimic positive behaviors—87% of kids do so.[xi]

Recent research is exploring the effect of new media on children’s behavior. Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman of Iowa State University reviewed dozens of studies of video gamers. In 2001, they reported that children and young people who play violent video games, even for short periods, are more likely to behave aggressively in the real world; and that both aggressive and non-aggressive children are negatively affected by playing.[xii]

In 2003, two Iowa State University researchers teamed up with the Texas Department of Human Services and reported that violent music lyrics increased aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings among 500 college students. They concluded, “There are now good theoretical and empirical reasons to expect effects of music lyrics on aggressive behavior to be similar to the well-studied effects of exposure to TV and movie violence and the more recent research efforts on violent video games.”[xiii]

Columbia University professor Jeffrey Johnson has found that the effect is not limited to children who grew up watching violent shows. Johnson tracked 707 families in upstate New York for 17 years, starting in 1975. In 2002, he reported that children who watched one to three hours of any kind of television each day when they were 14 to 16 years old were 60% more likely to be involved in assaults and fights as adults than those who watched less TV.[xiv]

Researchers have also pursued the link between media violence and real life aggression by examining communities before and after the introduction of television. In the mid-1970s, University of British Columbia professor Tannis McBeth Williams studied a remote village in British Columbia both before and after television was introduced. She found that two years after TV arrived, violent incidents had increased by 160%.[xv]

University of Washington Professor Brandon Centerwall noted that the sharp increase in the murder rate in North America in 1955 occurred eight years after television sets began to enter North American homes. To test his hypothesis that the two were related, he examined the murder rate in South Africa where, prior to 1975, television was banned by the government. He found that twelve years after the ban was lifted, murder rates skyrocketed.

In 1998, Professors Singer, Slovak, Frierson and York surveyed 2,000 Ohio students in grades three through eight. They report that the incidences of psychological trauma (including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress) increased in proportion to the number of hours of television watched each day.[xvi]

A number of studies in the 1970’s showed that people who are repeatedly exposed to media violence tend to be less disturbed when they witness real world violence, and have less sympathy for its victims. For example, Professors V.B. Cline, R.G. Croft, and S. Courrier studied young boys over a two-year period. In 1973, they reported that boys who watch more than 25 hours of television per week are significantly less likely to be aroused by real world violence than those boys who watch four hours or less per week.[xvii]

The late George Gerbner conducted the longest running study of television violence that we know of. His seminal research found that frequent TV viewers tend to perceive the world in ways that are consistent with the images on TV. As viewers’ perceptions of the world come to conform with the depictions they see on TV, they become more passive, more anxious, and more fearful. Gerbner calls this the “Mean World Syndrome.” Gerbner’s research, published in 1994, found that those who watch greater amounts of television are more likely to overestimate their risk of being victimized by crime; believe their neighborhoods are unsafe; believe “fear of crime is a very serious personal problem”; and assume the crime rate is increasing, even when it is not.[xviii]

[i] Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year olds—A Kaiser Family Foundation study. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, California.

[ii] Wong, M. L., Chan, K. W., Koh, D., Tan, H. H., Lim, F. S., Emmanuel, S., & Bishop, G. (2009). Premarital sexual intercourse among adolescents in an Asian country: Multilevel ecological factors. Pediatrics; Haggstrom-Nordin, E., Hanson, U., & Tyden, T. (2005). Associations between pornography consumption and sexual practices among adolescents in Sweden. International Journal of STD and AIDS, 16(2), 102-107.

[iii] ParentFurther. (n.d.). (Search Institute) Retrieved April 23, 2012, from ParentFurther: A Search Institute resource for families:

[iv] Douglas, G. (2009). Pathological video game use among youth 8 – 18: A national study. Psychological Science, 20(5), 594-602.

[v] Television & Health. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2012, from California State University Northridge:

[vi] Doherty, W. J. (2000). Take back your kids: Confident parenting in turbulent times. Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books. 138-142.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Research on effects of Media Violence (n.d.). Media Awareness Network:

[x] Huesmann, L. R. (1982). Television violence and aggressive behavior. In: D. Perl, L. Bouthilet, & J. Lazar (Eds.), Television and behavior: Ten years of programs and implications for the 80’s (pp. 126-137). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

[xi] Rideout, V. J., Vandewater, E. A., & Wartella, E. A. (2003). Zero to six: Electronic media in the lives of infants, toddlers and preschoolers—A Kaiser Family Foundation report. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, California.

[xii] Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive recognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353-359.

[xiii] Anderson, C. A., Carnagey, N. L., & Eubanks, J. (2003). Exposure to violent media: The effect of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and feelings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(5), 960-971.

[xiv] Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Smailes, E. M., Kasen, S., & Brook, J. S. (2002). Television viewing and aggressive behavior during adolescence and adulthod. Science, 295(5564), 2468-2471.

[xv] Williams, T. M. (Ed.). (1986). The impact of television: A natural experiment in three communities. New York: Praeger.

[xvi] Singer, M. I., Slovak, K., Frierson, T., & York, P. (1998). Viewing preferences, symptoms of psychological trauma, and violent behaviors among children who watch television. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 37, 1041-1048.

[xvii] Cline, V. B., Croft, R. G., & Courrier, S. (1973). Desensitization of children to television violence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27(3), 360-365.

[xviii] Gerbner, G. (2004). TV violence and the art of asking the wrong question. In The World & I; A Chronicle of Our Changing Era, July, 1994, pp.385-397. Retrieved September 14, 2012, from Center for Media Literacy: