Impact of Live TV Coverage on Conflict Management and Relief Efforts

CNN EffectAlmost two decades ago, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned, “Television has become part of the event it covers. It has changed the way the world reacts to crises.” He was referring to television broadcasts from war zones like Bosnia and Somalia. Real-time satellite coverage (often referred to as the CNN Effect) had essentially changed the role of journalists from reporters to participants.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was arguing that instantaneous, global broadcasts of atrocities put pressure on governments “to do something quickly.”

Nik Gowing writing in the UK-based The Independent raised the question, “But is this true? Does television really influence foreign policy?” For four months, he stepped back from the daily pressures of TV news reporting. He interviewed more than 100 diplomatic, military, and foreign-policy decision makers in the U.S. and Europe to test the conventional wisdom that images transmitted ‘live from the battlefield’ drive foreign policy decisions.

When he began the project, he felt that television coverage did drive foreign policy. After the interviews, he wasn’t so sure. He concluded that:

“Television’s new power should not be misread. It can highlight problems and help to put them on the policy agenda, but when governments are determined to keep to minimalist, low-risk, low-cost strategies, television reporting does not force them to become more engaged.”

Walter Strobel, a White House Correspondent for the Washington Times, like Gow, interviewed many foreign policy makers and military leaders. He published his findings in an article for the American Journalism Review. Like Gow, he concluded that “The CNN Effect is narrower and far more complex than the conventional wisdom holds.” He continues:

“To say that CNN changes governance, shrinks decision making time and opens up military operations to public scrutiny is not the same as saying that it determines policy. Information indeed has become central to international affairs, but whether officials use this or are used by it depends largely on them.”

The controversy over the CNN Effect continued for several years. In 2000, Peter Jakobsun from the University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Political Science studied the phenomenon and published his findings in the Journal of Peace Research. He titled the study, “Focus on the CNN Effect Misses the Point: The Real Media Impact on Conflict Management is Invisible and Indirect.” Jakubsen analyzed media coverage before, during and after violent conflicts. He concluded that:

“The media ignores most conflicts most of the time. The coverage of the pre- and post-violence phases is negligible at best and only a few armed conflicts are covered in the violence phase. As focus and funds follow the cameras, the 1990s have witnessed a transfer of resources from more cost-effective, long-term efforts directed at preventing violent conflict and rebuilding war-torn societies to short-term emergency relief. Selective media coverage also contributes to an irrational allocation of short-term emergency relief because coverage is determined by factors other than humanitarian need. This invisible and indirect media impact on Western conflict management is far greater than the direct impact on intervention and withdrawal decisions that the debate over the CNN effect focuses on.”

Jakubsen felt that real-time, satellite media coverage of conflicts contributes to “an irrational allocation of resources.” He observed that  resources are channeled from long-term development and regeneration projects to short-term emergency relief by media-inspired demands that funds be given to emergency ‘X’ one month and emergency ‘Y’ the next. During his study:

  • Official development assistance provided by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) fell by more than 20% in constant dollars, and reached its lowest point in 45 years when measured as a percent of members’ gross domestic product.
  • By contrast, the funds provided for humanitarian relief by OECD members rose more than five fold.
  • Statistics from the UN Consolidated Inter-agency Humanitarian Assistance Appeals showed that appeals for emergencies covered by the media were far more successful than appeals for forgotten emergencies.

My Take

Live 24-hour news coverage of international crises seems to have had little effect on public policy. The biggest impact, according to Jakubsen is that more effort seems to be focused on dealing with the results of conflicts than preventing them in the first place.

New technologies always have unintended consequences. This seems to be one of the less foreseeable. But decades later, little has changed. Less than three months ago, a mass shooting of elementary schoolchildren in Newtown, CT, riveted the nation’s attention. Now, the cameras have moved on and so has the debate over how to prevent the next mass shooting. The lead story on tonight’s national news was the weather.

Impact of Television Screens on Nervous Tics

According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, tics are sudden, painless, nonrhythmic behaviors that appear out of context. Simple motor tics are brief, meaningless movements like eye blinking, facial grimacing, head jerks or shoulder shrugs. They usually last less than one second, but can last longer, occur frequently and be more serious..

For those who have never witnessed this affliction, YouTube posted a video of a tic-stricken person watching TV. Tics are often related to a more severe related disorder called Tourette’s Syndrome.

Tics Related to TV Viewing and Video Games

A UK group called Tourette’s Action says that tics usually increase with stress, tiredness and boredom and are often prominent when watching television.

Many others note an association between tics and television watching. However, the cause is not fully understood. Some psychologists believe that tics can be suppressed through concentration; they attribute tic outbursts to relaxation while watching TV. Others see the flickering lights of TV and video games as the culprits. Still others see tics as a genetic disorder and believe that environmental factors may trigger them.

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CRT flicker is imperceptible to most people but may be related to tics in others.

An article posted by The American Nutrition Association in Nutrition Digest notes several types of hypersensitivities associated with tics and says “Television and video games both have a high frequency flicker that doesn’t bother most of us, but often triggers tics. TV and computer video games watched by toddlers are linked to ADHD as well as tics.”

The Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy (ACN) which explores treatments for tics and other neurological disorders sponsors a forum for parents of children with tics. A review of the postings on the forum found that 20 of 27 (74 percent) of parents who eliminated screen viewing for at least a week saw a significant reduction in their children’s tics. Most children with screen sensitivity also had food sensitivities. Several parents noted that correcting food issues, such as hypersensitivity to yeast, eliminated the screen sensitivity.

A comprehensive book on the subject, Natural Treatments for Tics and Tourette’s: A Patient and Family Guide, by Sheila J. Rogers contains numerous stories from parents who found that eliminating or restricting television viewing for children with tics lessened the symptoms.

The book also refers to reports from Japan about eye twitching, muscle twitching and in rare cases, even seizures associated with playing video games. Rogers cites warnings printed in Nintendo manuals starting in 2004.

The good news: Rogers reports that tics were most frequently observed while subjects were viewing cathode ray tubes (CRTs) which have much more pronounced flicker than the LCD, plasma and LED screens being sold today.

A neurotransmitter inside the brain called dopamine may trigger tics in people with hypersensitivity to light. Light strongly affects the body’s production of dopamine. Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., wrote in Psychology Today:
“Since video games and computer use increase dopamine, and tics are dopamine-related, it’s understandable that electronic media worsen tics.  For bothersome tics, I recommend a three week “electronic fast” to normalize brain chemistry and improve sleep (restful sleep improves tics in and of itself).”

We have all become dependent on electronic media; it’s hard to fathom life without screens. This is one more example of how media can impact life in surprising ways.

Screen Fixation and Attention Deficit Disorder

While searching for information about the relationship between ADD and different types of monitors, I came across a touching story in the New York Times. Published in 2011 by Perri Klass, M.D., the article titled “Fixated by Screens, but Seemingly Nothing Else” began with the story of boy whose teacher thought he had attention deficit disorder. The teacher urged the boy’s mother to have him tested: “He can’t sit still … He’s always getting into trouble.”

The mother felt her son could not have attention deficit disorder because he could sit for hours concentrating on video games. The physician had heard it all before. He said, “Sometimes parents make the same point about television: My child can sit and watch for hours — he can’t have A.D.H.D.”

“In fact, a child’s ability to stay focused on a screen, though not anywhere else, is actually characteristic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are complex behavioral and neurological connections linking screens and attention, and many experts believe that these children do spend more time playing video games and watching television than their peers.”

But researchers, the article continues, are still trying to determine whether the screen fixation is a cause or an effect of attention disorders.

Some researchers, according to Klass, feel that flickering screens may reward the brain by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine and therefore attract children with deficit disorders. The brains of these children may be deficient in dopamine and they are, in effect, self-medicating with video.

Other researchers fear video may cause deficit disorders. Klass says, “Some studies have found that children who spend more time in front of the screen are more likely to develop attention problems later on.”

He cited a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics. It found that viewing more television and playing more video games were associated with subsequent attention problems in both schoolchildren and college undergraduates. The theory goes something like this. In video games, the need to keep responding rapidly in order to win creates hyper-alertness that makes the real world seem under-stimulating by comparison.

My Take

Regardless of the cause/effect question posed above, these studies show that exposure to television and video games can affect brain chemistry over the long term. These visual mediums have the power to affect how we feel, how we think, and how we interact with those around us. Tomorrow, I will write about several affective disorders related to television usage that I have personally observed and documented.

Ramifications of Decline of Trust in Media

SkepticJournalists have historically performed a watchdog function over the three main branches of government. The executive, judicial and legislative branches check the power of each other. Journalists watch over them all on behalf of the public and provide an additional check … or so the theory goes.

A 2012 poll by Gallup, Media Use and Evaluation, showed that trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, fairly and accurately has reached an all time low. It peaked  in 1976, the year after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency following the Washington Post investigation into the Watergate Scandal, but as the Gallup chart below shows, trust has been declining since then.

Gallup concluded:

“This is particularly consequential at a time when Americans need to rely on the media to learn about the platforms and perspectives of the two candidates vying to lead the country for the next four years.”

“Americans’ high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other.”

In this second, separate survey that you can see by following the link above, Gallup also  found that 60 percent of Americans see the media as biased, with 47% saying the media are too liberal and 13% saying they are too conservative. Republicans trust news media least, but curiously, Gallup found that they pay the most attention to national news.

My Take

For the moment, the lack of trust in news media seems to have caused people to become more vigilant rather than less engaged. However, one wonders when the switch will flip.

When people start to tune out, we are on the most slippery of slopes. We will lose the ultimate check-and-balance in society – an informed electorate.

How Search Engines Can Help Perpetuate Misinformation

Before we get into this, I want acknowledge that search engines put a world of relevant information at our fingertips and that they help people find answers faster than ever before. They’re great. I love ’em. I use ’em. But I also see a dark side to them.

Ask anyone a question. If they don’t know the answer, in all likelihood, they will Google for it from a smartphone. Voila! answers! Are they accurate? Are they true? These are much bigger questions.

searchforanswersA frequently quoted book, Prioritizing Web Usability (2006) by Jakob Nielsen, claims 93 percent of Web searchers never go past the first page of results. Yet Google and other search engines often return millions of pages.

At one time, an army of professional authors, editors, reviewers, librarians and fact checkers helped verify and screen information before dishing it up to readers. Today, that verification process applies to only a tiny fraction of all the information put online. Anyone can self-publish anything. “No experience necessary” often equates to “no truth or accuracy required.”

Limitations of Search Engines and Human Brains

Search engines simply report all references to a phrase on the Internet; they make no attempt to determine the truth or accuracy of claims. Yet most people assume the truth of something published. Why?

A 2012 report called Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich Ecker, Colleen Seifert, Norbert Schwarz and John Cook of the Universities of Western Australia, Michigan and Queensland[1] concludes that, “Cognitively, it is much easier for people to accept a given piece of information than to evaluate its truthfulness.” (Comment: this is especially true when search engine results stretch to thousands or millions of pages.)

The Stickiness of Misinformation

This fascinating report surveys academic literature relating to why we believe certain things we read or hear – even though they may be false. It begins with a discussion of several public policy issues, such as health care reform, vaccinations, and justifications for wars. It also discusses why misinformation is “sticky,” i.e., how hard it is to correct misinformation once it becomes rooted.

According to the report, disinformation in the U.S. healthcare debate peaked in 2009 when Sarah Palin used the phrase “death panels” on her Facebook page. “Within five weeks,” the report continues, “86% of Americans had heard the claim and half either believed it or were unsure about its veracity.”

Mainstream news media and fact-checkers reported that Palin’s characterization of provisions in the proposed law was false. But even today, four years later, a Google search for the term yields 35,800,000 results (in 0.16 seconds)! A scan of the first 20 pages of posts in the Google search revealed:

  • A few were dedicated to exposing “the myth” of death panels, including (to be fair), the very first post in Wikipedia.
  • Most posts conflicted with each other, i.e., a large number claimed the law would create “death panels” and a large number claimed it would not.
  • A large percentage was posted within the last few months, indicating that many people are trying to resurrect the term or keep the debate going, and that the authors of the paper are correct – misinformation is sticky.

Existing Beliefs Influence Belief in New Information

Determining the validity of information requires hard work and an open mind. The problem, say the authors of the Misinformation report, is that most people don’t seek information that contradicts their view of the world. Said another way, they tend to like information that supports their view.

Even when directly confronted with retractions and conflicting facts, many people cling to their original beliefs by saying something like, “Well, we’re all entitled to our opinions.” In fact, say the authors, conflicting information often serves to strengthen belief in  erroneous information.

How The Search for Truth is Getting More Difficult

Think of the Internet as a giant information archive. When topics such as healthcare become politicized, social networks, blogs and circular references turn the Internet into an echo chamber. Millions of references can accumulate in days as people report on reports of other reports, filtering information and putting their own spin on things along the way.

While search engines dutifully record the location of information, they can’t help us determine the truth of it. The sheer volume of conflicting information that they present makes the search for truth like looking for diamonds in a garbage dump.


[1] Click here to learn more about the Authors of Misinformation Report.

“A rape for my appetizer, a mass murder for my entree and a nuclear crisis for dessert!”

shutterstock_83392015So whatever happened to the days when you could eat at a restaurant without a half dozen televisions distracting you. Last week, after getting up at 4 AM one day and working frantically to meet deadlines all morning, I lunched at an Asian restaurant. The food came with a heaping helping of CNN, Headline News, local news, ESPN, soap operas and more. As I waited for my order to arrive, the televisions bombarded me with stories about:

  • A mass shooting of school children
  • An ex-cop allegedly turned cop killer
  • A large increase in gun sales
  • The rape and slaying of a child
  • A serial arsonist
  • The North Korean nuclear threat
  • The Iranian nuclear threat
  • The War on Drugs
  • The War on Terror
  • The War on Afghanistan
  • Alleged sexual abuse by priests
  • The doping crisis in cycling
  • Brain injuries in football
  • An approaching asteroid big enough to wipe out all life on earth

With those, I had a side order of a Cialis commercial – “Just so I could be ready for the moment” when my main course arrived.  The main course was a flambé of “Johnny left Sally after Sally had Jimmy’s baby” on a soap opera.

Frankly, this menu of the world’s woes left me with a little heartburn. Instead of miso soup, I got my fill of misery. To cap off the experience, the Muzak was turned up so loud I could barely hear my luncheon partner. We were forced to  stare at a panoply of pain scrolling across screen after screen. I wonder if this is what it’s like to live inside a depressed person’s head – inescapable, recurring videos reminding you of pain everywhere you turn.

To google for answers! In 2012, the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking published a study called Media Multitasking Is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety by Mark W. Becker, Ph.D., Reem Alzahabi, B.S., and Christopher J. Hopwood, Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.

The researchers found that media multitasking was associated with higher depression and social anxiety symptoms. They say:
“The unique association between media multitasking and these measures of psychosocial dysfunction suggests that the growing trend of multitasking with media may represent a unique risk factor for mental health problems related to mood and anxiety.”

The researchers noted that spending too much time in front of screens can mean less time spent on social activities when people deal with each other face to face. (See Rick Janacek’s post yesterday, “Texting: The Death of Conversation?”)

While the researchers found a high correlation between media multitasking and depression/anxiety, they did not determine whether multitasking caused the symptoms or whether already-depressed-and-anxious people were simply turning to multitasking for distraction.

How many people engage in media multitasking? A survey by Nielsen released in December of 2012 showed that 36 percent of those between 35 and 54 used a tablet while watching television, and that 44 percent of those between 55-64 did the same. Approximately 40 percent of Americans now use smartphones and tablets while watching TV. Tweeting about TV rose 29 percent in just the first six months of 2012.

In 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported on researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School who looked at the media habits of 4,142 healthy adolescents. They calculated that each additional hour of TV watched per day boosted the odds of becoming depressed by 8%. This is important because this age group spends on average more than 7 hours per day with media, and more than 10 hours per day when multitasking is factored in. The researchers described several possible explanations.

  • TV watching reduced time for organized after-school activities and other pursuits thought to reduce the risk of depression.
  • TV watching displaced sleep, an important factor in emotional growth.
  • Programs and ads may have made teens feel inadequate and stirred feelings of depression.
  • Exposure to violent, disturbing images may depress people.

This brings us back full circle to my lunch at the Asian restaurant in Houston. Researching this topic reminded me of a much different experience I had decades ago at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago called Azuma House. Upon entering Azuma House, one was greeted by the tranquil sounds of running water and a bamboo flute. You were then led to a private, quiet dining room and served by gracious hostesses in kimonos whose ritual bows made you feel like a king or queen. The atmosphere helped people connect with each other all night long as sumptuous course after course was served.

It was a welcome retreat from the pressures of the workaday world. My, how times have changed! It’s kind of depressing.

Using Social Media to Detect Poor Quality Health Care

In an era when a growing number of patients are using social media to describe their patient experiences, some health care professionals are suggesting that mining the “cloud of patient experience” could be an interesting way to help professionals improve that experience.

The idea is proposed in a “viewpoint” article entitled “Harnessing the cloud of patient experience: using social media to detect poor quality healthcare” published online by BMJ Quality and Safety in January 2013. The authors, F. Greaves, D Ramirez-Cano, C Millett, A Darzi and L Donaldson, of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, say that:

“We believe the increasing availability of patients’ accounts of their care on blogs, social networks, Twitter and hospital review sites presents an intriguing opportunity to advance the patient-centred care agenda and provide novel  quality of care data.”

DataCenterHand

They outline how collecting and aggregating patients’ descriptions of their experiences on the internet could be used to detect both poor and high quality clinical care. The process involves “natural language processing and sentiment analysis to transform unstructured descriptions of patient experience on the internet into usable measures of healthcare performance.” The authors conclude by discussing whether these new techniques could detect poor performance before conventional measures of healthcare quality could.

My Take

Many industries use data mining to gather business intelligence and detect trends in markets. The financial industry uses it to develop credit scores. Actuaries use it to assess risk for insurance companies. Other applications include quality assurance, cross-selling, fraud detection, stock market prediction, direct marketing and customer retention, to name just a few.

In all of these examples, people use computers to turn large amounts of unstructured data into usable knowledge that can help predict outcomes and improve performance.

If you’ve had a hospital stay recently, you probably received a questionnaire asking you to rate your experience. The purpose of these questionnaires is to gather feedback that leads to improved performance. A local hospital administrator told me recently that these ratings affect hospitals’ compensation by several percent – a powerful motive to improve.

But people are often reluctant to offer negative feedback – especially to people that their health depends on. They don’t want to be “problem patients” that providers shun; they have a natural tendency to want to say positive things TO the people they deal with. However, under the veil of anonymity that the Internet provides, they frequently show no restraint in saying negative things ABOUT their experiences with people, companies and institutions. I call this the Venting Effect. When you have a negative experience, just getting all those boiling feelings out of your head helps manage the pain.

Professionals can improve healthcare by capturing and analyzing this information. The hospital administrator mentioned above told me a poignant story about how his staff reduced lung infections after surgery from nearly 50 percent to virtually zero within five years. They used “best practices” determined from mining CDC data. Broadening the scope to include data mined from social networks may yield equally beneficial results.

Impact of TV Commercials on Preschooler Food Preferences

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study from the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention in January 2001 titled: The 30-second effect: an experiment revealing the impact of television commercials on food preferences of preschoolers.

DL Borzekowski and TN Robinson, the study’s authors, sought to determine whether televised food commercials influence preschool children’s food preferences.

Study Design

They divided 46 2- to 6-year-old preschool children into two groups. One saw a videotape of a popular cartoon with a commercial embedded in it. The control group saw the cartoon, but without the commercial. The children, from a Head Start program in northern California, were then asked to identify their preferences from pairs of similar products, one of which had been advertised in the embedded commercials.

Findings and Implications

They found that children exposed to commercials were significantly more likely to choose the advertised items than children who were not. They concluded that even brief exposures to televised food commercials can influence food preferences within this age group.

Further, the authors advised adults to limit  preschooler’s exposure to television advertisements. They also raised a public policy issue – given the epidemic of childhood obesity – about advertising to young children.

My Take

From personal experience, both as a parent and advertising-industry professional, I believe that this age group lacks the cognitive capabilities to differentiate commercials from programming. Thus, they are exceptionally vulnerable at a time when they are forming preferences and habits that could influence the trajectory of their lives.

Hit the pause button for a moment of ethical reflection.

Kids like “fun.” (Don’t we all?) Advertisers know this and so they pack commercials targeted at kids with flashy animation, bright colors, happy music and fantasy characters. These are the tools of the trade. Advertising targeted at adults uses the same tools for the same reasons.

VeggieHeartIf the products and services being advertised are not harmful, I believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with this. We should also remember that television is a competitive marketplace of ideas. Nothing prevents anyone from using the same tools to encourage consumption of healthy foods like Popeye cartoons once did.

Late in life, I gained a significant amount of weight from eating too much unhealthy food. After nutritional counseling, I began eating virtually nothing but lean meats, vegetables and fruits. I lost eighty pounds, nine inches from my waistline, and feel infinitely better now.

However, a curious thing happened in the process. Much of the food advertising I see on TV now repulses me. What used to make me drool – gooey cheese in pizza commercials, for instance – now makes my stomach turn back-flips. Seriously, it’s such an unpleasant feeling that I must look away from the TV. Someone needs to research this phenomenon to see if a heart healthy diet is the best defense against the seductive pull of advertising for less healthy foods – among children and adults. There could be something happening on a cellular level here. When I was fat and tried to diet, the first two weeks were always the hardest. Every time I saw one of those gooey pizza commercials, it triggered cravings. Now, the opposite happens.

Anncr VO:  “And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.”

Impact of TV Violence on Sleep

In the weeks following 9/11, I saw the World Trade Towers fall dozens, if not hundreds, of times in televised replays. The effect on my sleep was immediate. I slept restlessly, had nightmares, woke frequently, and felt anxiety. I had several friends/clients in the Towers that day. While the nightmares faded over time, the other effects did not. For the better part of a decade, I woke up at least once virtually every night.

Somehow a pattern had formed. I saw a sleep doctor. He told me to stop watching TV before bedtime, that TV stimulated the brain when it needed to relax. But I wondered whether there was something more going on – whether the violence of those images was somehow still disturbing my sleep and whether others were similarly affected.

A 2011 New York Times article by Anemona Hartocollis, 10 Years and a Diagnosis Later, 9/11 Demons Haunt Thousands, confirmed my suspicions. The article discussed the impact of the event on people who had experienced it firsthand. The article chronicled a list of serious maladies ranging from chronic sleep disturbances and lung cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. But could exposure to the event on television also cause sleep disorders?

A 2004 study called Television Images and Probable Posttraumatic Stress Disorder After September 11 by Jennifer Ahern, MPH; Sandro Galea, MD; Heidi Resnick, PhD; and David Vlahov, PhD, in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease showed that people who viewed more television images of the attacks in the seven days after 9/11 had a higher probability of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The authors wrote, “Television may merit consideration as a potential exposure to a traumatic event.”

Another study published in 2007 in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Following Media Exposure to Tragic Events: Impact of 9/11 on Children at Risk for Anxiety Disorders) found the amount of time children spent viewing 9/11 coverage on television predicted an increased risk of PTSD symptoms. The authors (Michael Otto, Aude Henin, Dina Hirshfeld-Becker, Mark Pollack, Joseph Biederman, and Jerold Rosenbaum of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School) conclude, “Media viewing of tragic events is sufficient to produce PTSD symptoms in vulnerable populations such as children.”

Outside of the context of a tragic event like 9/11, I began to wonder whether the general level of violence one sees on TV can affect sleep. Most studies have focused on how the medium itself stimulate the brain. But I found this study published In 2011 in The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics by Michelle M. Garrison, Kimberly Liekweg and Dimitri A. Christakis titled Media Use and Child Sleep: The Impact of Content, Timing, and Environment. The authors determined that media content and viewing time correlate significantly with children’s sleep quality.

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The authors had 612 parents keep media diaries showing what, when, where and with whom their children watched TV for a week. They also correlated the diaries with a sleep questionnaire and found:

“Children with a bedroom television consumed more media and were more likely to have a sleep problem. In regression models, each additional hour of evening media use was associated with a significant increase in the sleep problem score (0.743 [95% confidence interval: 0.373–1.114]), as was daytime use with violent content (0.398 [95% confidence interval:0.121– 0.676]). There was a trend toward greater impact of daytime violent use in the context of a bedroom television (P  .098) and in low-income children (P  .07).”

The authors concluded that violent content and evening media use were associated with increased sleep problems. However, they observed no such effects with nonviolent daytime media use. To foster better sleep patterns, they advise parents to control their children’s watching of programs with violent content and to reduce evening media use.

My Take

These studies show sleep disturbances can be related to televised violence. They also raise some corollary questions, “What are the long term health consequences of constant exposure to images of violence? Does the rise in the use of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs correlate at all to increased viewing of violence through media?” A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011, by Laura A. Pratt, Ph.D.; Debra J. Brody, M.P.H.; and Qiuping Gu, M.D., Ph.D., found that “From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%.” To be clear, the report notes that the authors did not study specific causes for the increase, i.e., with media useage. But I can’t help but wonder what, if any, correlation there is. Numerous studies now show that people spend more time multitasking with media than sleeping.

How a Mouse Click Can Affect Future Employability

My parents drummed into me the importance of “Buyer beware.” Today’s parents need to teach kids a variation on that phrase, “Browser beware.”

One of my younger employees once told me that he preferred digital media to mass media such as television because he didn’t have to suffer through commercials not targeted to him. However, the technology used to target digital ads can harm people who may not be aware of what’s going on (and he certainly didn’t fall into that group).

In 2011, The Journal of the American Association of Pediatrics published a study called Clinical Report—The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. The report by Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and the Council on Communications and Media cataloged both the negative and positive influences that social media can have. The report makes a powerful case for media literacy education.

The authors define social media as any Web site that allows social interaction
These include social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Second Life; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs.

JobInterviewThe authors point out that many social sites gather information on the person using a site and use that information to give advertisers the ability to target “behavioral” ads directly to an individual’s profile. They also discuss how this information can come back to haunt kids later in life:

“When Internet users visit various Web sites, they can leave behind evidence of which sites they have visited. This collective, ongoing record of one’s Web activity is called the “digital footprint.” One of the biggest threats to young people on social media sites is to their digital footprint and future reputations. Preadolescents and adolescents who lack an awareness of privacy issues often post inappropriate messages, pictures, and videos without understanding that “what goes online stays online.” As a result, future jobs and college acceptance may be put into jeopardy by inexperienced and rash clicks of the mouse.”

Browser beware!