Too much television can make children 'mentally ill'
2009-02-04 0:00


Too much television and time spent on the internet can make children mentally ill, an in-depth report has concluded.

Excessive exposure makes a child materialistic, which in turn affects their relationship with their parents and their health.

That is one of the conclusions of a new wide-ranging survey into British childhood, produced for the Children's Society.

It says that children are part of a new form of consumerism, with under 16 year-olds spending £3 billion of their own money each year on clothes, snacks, music, video games and magazines.

The report claims that some advertisers "explicitly exploit the mechanism of peer pressure, while painting parents as buffoons" and that in its most extreme form, advertising persuades children that "you are what you own".

In addition the "constant exposure" to celebrities through, TV soaps, dramas and chat shows is having a detrimental effect.

It says: "Children today know in intimate detail the lives of celebrities who are richer than they will ever be, and mostly better-looking. This exposure inevitably raises aspirations and reduces self-esteem."

It adds the way celebrities are portrayed "automatically encourages the excessive pursuit of wealth and beauty."

This "media-driven consumerism" is having a negative effect on a child's wellbeing, the report says.

It highlights a study into the effect of consumerism on the psychological wellbeing of 10-13 year-olds.

That study found: "Other things being equal, the more a child is exposed to the media (television and Internet), the more materialistic she becomes, the worse she relates to her parents and the worse her mental health."

The Good Childhood inquiry, compiled by more than 35,000 contributors is independent of the Church of England affiliated society but has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

It takes an in-depth look at the changing face of childhood and family life in Britain, and the challenges facing youngsters today.

The report has found that only a quarter of children with mental health problems get any specialist help, and one in 10 five to 16-year-olds now have mental health issues, ranging from anxiety or depression to conduct disorders such as destructive behaviour.

It claims that the upward trend of violence in the media in general, is making children violent and causing tension within the family.

The report says: "We know from controlled studies that exposure to violence can breed violence.

"So it seems likely that the upward trend in media violence is helping to produce the upward trend in violent behaviour – and also the growth of psychological conflict in family relationships."

The report also notes that commercial pressures have led to the "premature sexualisation" of young people.

It notes that young people are having sex earlier because of "many forces", including "more privacy when both parents work, more contraception, commercial pressures toward premature sexualisation, and fundamental changes in attitude".

The report recommends that sex and relationships, and understanding of the media should be a compulsory part of the personal, social and health curriculum.

And it says advertising of unhealthy foods and alcohol should be banned before 9pm.

Source: Too much television can make children 'mentally ill'

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