Media for us is as essential as food is. We need both nutritious and tasty food. The media diet we are served, some say it is ‘empty calorie’, some say it is ‘nutrition filled’. The quality and quantity of media diet is important. Too much junk food can cause all sorts of health problems. What kind of media diet poses more danger to the children — a dirty picture or a violent video game or a grim fairy tale?
Research says, children who watch more TV eat more junk food. Another study has shown that youngsters who spend more time watching violent programmes tend to be more socially isolated. Studies, however, have not identified if violent media makes youths more socially isolated, or if socially isolated kids develop a tendency of moving toward violent media. Violent programmes make children more aggressive and there are also indications that violent programmes makes it harder for them to have friends.
Some think, grim fairy tales can be as dangerous, if not more, as violent video games. Filmmaker turned pediatrician Michael Rich, however, thinks otherwise. He says, “Written stories require translation in your imagination. A kid only imagines what his or her life experience allows.” Numerous studies have linked media over-exposure with negative health behaviour and lifestyle issues. But media is not viewed by the doctors as one of the important health factors and that is quite bothersome to some media researchers. Sexual portrayals in media are becoming frequent and explicit. This is due to the increasing competition among various media sources. Everybody wants to capture a larger audience share. Studies have shown that exposure to sexual material in the media starts early, as the youth wants to taste spicy and forbidden food as early as possible. They want to learn from the media about relationships, love and sexuality. According to a theory put forward by media analysts, youth tries to imitate and eventually adopt a behaviour that is rewarded in the media. Generally the young have limited experience with sex. When the young are exposed to more extensive and powerful media exposure to sex than their own experience, according to another theory, its consequence is development of “attitudes and expectations in young people that are more consistent with virtual reality than with reality itself.” Researchers say such media exposure may influence youth to believe that sex without commitments, consequences, or concerns is normative and desirable for adolescents.
The use of the internet is rising rapidly among the children. The Internet is accessible, affordable, and provides the opportunity of maintaining anonymity. Problems arise when the internet is misused or too much used. Long-term exposure to media portrayals of sexual violence has been shown to result in desensitisation and decreasing empathy for rape victims, say the researchers. There is no denying that sex is important part of one’s life but it needs to be presented so that it doesn’t erode the healthy concepts of romance, relationships and responsibilities.