May 2, 2019


Debunking the most common media myths and truths with real research and practical advice.

Parents have a lot of responsibility. Mainly, keep the kid alive. Next, try to raise a decent human being. And the messages about media and tech start almost from the moment they’re born: TV will rot your kid’s brain! Video games are evil! Kids don’t know how to have conversations anymore! It all boils down to the idea that too much media and tech will ruin your kid — or make them fat, dumb, and mean. But obviously that’s an oversimplification. The truth is more complicated — and a lot less scary.

Here we break down the scariest media and tech rumors and give you some solid research and simple, no-stress advice.

Rumour: TV rots kids’ brains

Research says: No credible research exists that says screens cause any sort of damage to the brain. It’s pretty clear, though, that having a TV on in the background isn’t good for little kids. It’s been shown to reduce the amount of time kids play and the quality of that play. It also seems to be related to less parent-child talk and interaction, which can have a negative impact on kids’ language development. Television in the bedroom is also a no-no; research shows it affects the quality and amount of sleep kids get, which can affect learning, among other things.

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Advice: Turn off the TV unless you’re actively watching it. And keep it out of sleeping areas. Play music — perhaps wordless — if you want some background noise. And set aside time each day, if possible, to actively play with little kids.

Rumour: Watching TV or playing video games makes kids fat

Research says: Some research suggests a connection between watching TV and an increased body mass index. But the numbers seem to point to this being a result of kids being exposed to food advertising, not necessarily being couch potatoes.

Advice: Avoid commercials by using a DVR or choosing videos without ads. Also, teach kids to recognize advertisers’ tricks and marketing techniques, so when they see ads, they can evaluate them critically. Make sure kids get exercise every day, either at school or home. If kids can’t spend time outdoors, find ways to be physically active indoors (create obstacle courses; do kid “boot camps”) and choose active video games or find fun exercise apps or TV shows to enjoy together or for kids to enjoy on their own.

Rumour: Mobile phone radiation causes cancer

Research says: Lots of studies have been done, and the results are inconclusive. The research community is still investigating, but there is still no indication that mobile phones cause cancer in humans.

Advice: Kids don’t talk on their phones very much — they’re more likely to text or use apps — so even if there were a credible connection between the radio waves emitted from phones and damage to the brain, most kids would be at little risk. If you want to be extra cautious, make sure they aren’t sleeping with their phones under their pillows (not a good idea anyway!).

Rumour: Kids use the internet/their phones too much — they’re addicted!

Research says: While plenty of research has been done to try to figure this out, the results are still pretty inconclusive, especially for kids. Certainly, studies show that kids feel addicted, but whether many are experiencing the symptoms of true addiction — interference with daily life, needing more to achieve the same feeling — is still up for debate. Also, no one has defined what “too much” time is.

Advice: Build as much balance into kids’ days and weeks as possible. That means aiming for a mix of screen and non-screen time that includes time with family and friends, reading, exercising, chores, outdoor play, and creative time. If kids seem to be suffering in some area — at school, with friends, with behavior at home — take a look at her daily and weekly activities and adjust accordingly.

Rumour: Violent video games make kids violent

Research says: Heavy exposure to violent media can be a risk factor for violent behavior, according to some — but not all — studies. Children who are exposed to multiple risk factors — including substance abuse, aggression, and conflict at home — and who consume violent media are more likely to behave aggressively.

Advice: Avoid games that are age-inappropriate, especially ones that combine violence with sex. Make media choices that reflect your family’s values; that can mean choosing nonviolent games, limiting the amount of time kids can play certain games, or playing along with kids to help guide them through iffy stuff. Also, as much as possible, limit other risk factors of aggression in kids’ lives.

Rumour: Kids don’t know how to have face-to-face conversations anymore

Research says: Studies on this topic haven’t focused on kids yet, but that data is surely on the horizon. What we know says that many older adults think devices harm conversations, but younger adults aren’t as bothered. A couple studies have also found that the absence of devices (at summer camps or during one-on-one conversations) can inspire emotional awareness. What that means about the ability to have a conversation is unclear.

Advice: Make sure kids get experience having face-to-face conversations with family members, friends, and others, such as teachers, coaches, or clergy. Teach kids proper etiquette, including not staring at a phone while someone else is talking. Model the behavior you want to see. But also accept that digital communication is here to stay. Embrace it and use it with your kid. And don’t criticize kids for using it appropriately, even if it’s not your preferred method of communication.

This post originally appeared on Common Sense Media and has been shared with full permission.


Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at  www.commonsense.org and sign up for our newsletter to read more articles like this.

  • Wow, a lot of common myths being debunked in this article. I think if a child does too much of one thing, it will ultimately affect other areas of their life


  • It is worrying that new research says we are bringing up a form of autistic children because they don’t have the face to face values that children used to have and can no longer recognise facial expressions. If I were bringing up a toddler today, I would still interact with my child not watch my phone all the time.


  • Kids need to be outside, running around, climbing trees building their muscles and growing bodies. Kids DO NOT need screens or TV at all. It provides nothing to them developmentally. We need to stop sugar coating the fact that it is harming our children’s health


  • I agree with all of the above points to a degree and when considered in their entirety. If any of these points are moderate, not so much, but it seems nobody does anything in moderation any more. I can put these examples to many families and prove them to be true, not myths.


  • I guess it depends on which research you are quoting and looking at! There is definitely research to support that kids are starting school with poorer speech, language, attention and social skills. I don’t think that it is a stretch to see that there is more technology involved than before


  • Everything in moderation is the key. Too much of anything is bad for you.


  • Nothing we havent been told before, just like lollies and cakes, everything in moderation


  • No new finding really.
    Every thing in moderation indeed.


  • I allowed my kids to watch tv or play computer games but only in certain time frames. Otherwise they were always out playing with their mates. They mainly used the computer or watched tv when it was too wet to play outside


  • Balance tech time with outdoor activities and other pursuits and it is the best way to being healthy and well balanced.


  • I also think technology is ok for educational purposes.


  • My 2 get cranky when screen time comes to an end. Especially my son he loves watching TV. So limiting it is important


  • It’s like anything – too much is bad but not in moderation. We limit our kids to one movie per week. Sometimes they get a nature documentary too. Ipads do have great learning programs too.


  • Technology isn’t all bad especially if used correctly for Educational purposes


  • I also think it depends on content. Is it a documentary or an educational app, or something mindless with violence and poor language skills. Everything in balance.


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