Posted on April 27, 2011 in Adolescents

Over-Exposure to Television and Media Linked To Childrens’ Personality, Behavior Disorders

As millions of children spend hours staring alone at video games, computer screens or televisions, psychologists are formally recognizing that the impacts can be quite serious, even naming a new disorder to the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMMD). 

Called media-related personality disorders, the new official listing affirms a connection between too much media exposure and behavioral consequences like overeating, aggression and even higher rates of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Experts in child behavior and psychology have long believed a connection existed, but the fifth edition of the DSMMD, published by the American Psychiatric Association, will provide new avenues for diagnosing conditions related to overexposure to popular media forms.

It’s not just the long hours spent in front of the television, computer or video game that causes behavioral or personality problems, say experts. It’s the reality that many children are also simultaneously disengaged from physical activities and are also disconnected from parental involvement and companionship.

Studies conducted globally to explore the connection between media exposure and related problems at the mental and personality levels are reinforcing the new listing of media-related personality disorders. Another factor in the mix is the reality that media forms like television, games and movies have increasingly allowed more aggressive or sexual content, which psychologists and experts believe is contributing to the rise in personality and behavioral disorders – even when the children become adults.

In India, where around 95 percent of all homes have television, a survey showed that children were averaging five hours of daily TV consumption. Nearly one-fifth of children could use the Internet. One Indian-based video gaming company believed their target users were at least 16 years old, but studies showed that around one-fourth of their usage and related downloads were coming from children in the 7 to 14-year old age group.

While many Internet sites or television programs boast education intertwined with entertainment, many business leaders and experts disagree, stating that the main reasons children use those outlets are entertainment-based. It is believed that the global rise in Internet, video game use and television is related to childrens’ needs to release stress, while many children are hampered by uninvolved families or parents, and face a lack of access to spaces to exercise or lack the ability to get outside.

While parents may find it unrealistic to eliminate television and other forms of media from their children’s lives, experts like psychologist Dr. Kersi Chavda said parents can closely track how much time their children spend using media, and should know what that content contains before their child reaches excessive levels of usage.

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