A study released by watchdog group Common Sense Media this week strongly correlates the amount of time children spend with media to poor school performance as well as negative health outcomes such as obesity, substance abuse and smoking.
Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review is, essentially, a survey of research on the topic conducted over the past 30 years. The study was carried out by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center.
From a political standpoint, it is interesting to note that lead researcher Ezekiel Emanuel of the NIH is the brother of President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Steyer (left) discussed the Obama connection with Time:
[Rahm Emanuel] will have a strong position in the incoming Administration. And I am optimistic that you'll see a renewed emphasis, from the White House on down, on media, technology and kids. In that sense, I'm very hopeful that Barack and Michelle Obama will be parents-in-chief and role models-in-chief for our country. Barack talked about it repeatedly through his campaign—turning off the TV, turning off the video games, doing your homework, talking with your kids.
Steyer also told Time that the study deliberately stayed away from issues of violence and media:
The research team decided that there was a voluminous amount of studies that focus solely on media and violence. So they wanted to stay away from that... This report doesn't say, nor would Common Sense ever suggest, that media is the cause of all society's ills, or the sole cause of childhood obesity or risky sexual behavior or smoking or alcohol use among teens. But it is a significant contributing factor...
The study's politicial potential is also emphasized in a press release on the Common Sense Media website which quotes former FCC chairman and CSM board member William Kennard:
The new administration has shown a commitment to children and has already made important statements about how it will focus new attention on technology and media. There is a unique opportunity to make real change in the role that media plays in our children’s lives.