NewScientist.com, "The World's No. 1 Science & Technology News Service" (with somewhat of a predilection to articles on obesity), have reported on a new study purporting that television and video game exposure "should be viewed as a major public health issue and, like cigarettes, these media should come with a health warning"). In fact, such excess childhood exposure can "increase obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, risky sexual behaviours, violence and social isolation." Let us analyze all of the article's assertions and findings:

  • These media should come with a health warning. We could have sworn television, film, and video games have done this before.
  • The data linking violent media to aggression are "just as strong" as those linking smoking and lung cancer. In my experience I have seen just as many studies refuting the claim as supporting it (and some of those studies supporting the link are a tad questionable) ... so maybe what the article is actually saying is that there is only a 50% chance cigarettes could kill you. Besides, wouldn't the tobacco industry want its customers to stay alive and smoking?
More after the jump.
  • Toddlers who watch more than two hours of television a day are more likely to be overweight at ages 3 and 4-and-a-half. Translation: the characters you watch on TV are coming out of the screen and shoving delicious, sugary treats down your throat -- pay no mind that Mom has stocked the pantry with Pop Tarts and eschewed buying carrots and celery ... could the real link be the amount of time said fat kid is not outside playing sports or running around?
  • Playing a violent rather than a benign video game makes children more accepting of using drugs or alcohol, and having sex without a condom, because, the researchers suggest, it increases general disregard for the safety of yourself and others. There seems to be a logical fallacy in that statement -- as if they are jumping to conclusions. Video games are being accused of increasing "disregard for the safety of yourself and others." Those who use drugs and have unprotected sex also show a general disregard for personal safety; however, note the diagram to the right -- although drugs and violent video games may be both found to cause the same disposition, they do not imply that one is a causation of another.
According to Sonya Brady at the University of California at San Francisco, "what this suggests is that if you’re exposed to media violence, you might just jump to the conclusion that they’re out to get you." She is right, but the "they" in question looks more like sensationalist propaganda with political agendas than concerned citizens -- we are not disputing that the claims could be true, but we just do not trust the research and reasoning behind their assertions.

See Also:
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[Thanks, Ryan]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.