by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 2nd 2008 10:22am
Well, here we go again. USA Today has a report on a "review" of "173 of the strongest papers" from the past 28 years, which found that 80% show some sort of link between mass media and something evil happening to kids, whether it involves obesity, smoking, sex, drug and alcohol use, attention problems or poor grades. And, of course, the folks behind the review are claiming this is all very damning and "something must be done" to "protect the children!" Of course, we've seen this all before. In almost every case, when you look at the actual details of the study, the link is never quite as strong as it's made out to be. In many cases, the link may be a correlation, rather than a causal link (i.e., kids who get bad grades may watch more TV, but that doesn't mean that TV necessarily caused them to get bad grades). Other times, the study's findings are greatly extrapolated in the writeup -- such as the studies that showed that kids get "excited" when they play video games, and extrapolated that to claim kids are more violent because they play games. This isn't to say that mass media for kids is healthy, but we've seen so few studies that actually support a causal link, that it's difficult to take this sort of fear mongering seriously.
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