Media Exposure: The Link with Adolescent Health Risk Behaviors

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It is estimated that US children 2 to 18 years of age spend an average of 5.5 hours, daily, using media of all types. 1 During these years, it is estimated they will have viewed over 200,000 acts of violence just on television. 2 In this issue of the Southern Medical Journal, Dr. Robert DuRant and colleagues reported on their findings that an increased frequency of watching professional wrestling on television was associated with an increase in reported date fighting and other violent behaviors, risky sexual behavior, and smoking cigarettes, among a multistate random sample of adolescents aged 16 to 20 years. 3 In this cross-sectional study, 22.4% of males and 13.6% of females reported watching professional wrestling on television during the 2 weeks before the survey. Prior research, including experimental and longitudinal studies, has consistently demonstrated strong associations between exposure to media violence and desensitization to violence, greater acceptance of violence as a means of solving problems, and violent behavior, as well as depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance. 4