Children Adolescents and the Media

Parents, teachers, health professionals, and other adults have been concerned about the influence of the media on children and adolescents for many decades. Exposure to media is inescapable. It is part of enculturation, of learning to be an adult, and a part of ones' society. Media provide the main vehicle for education and information sharing and for almost all forms of entertainment. It is estimated that Americans send at least 10% of their lives watching television, the most common media exposure of all ages. Exhaustive research has studied the possible effects on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of messages presented in print or electronic media.

Print messages include posters, billboards, newspapers, magazines, advertising circulars ("junk mail") as well as books. Electronic media include radio, television, CDs, DVDs, motion pictures, video games, cell phones, smart phones, computers, notebooks, the internet, and all devices that can access it.

Today, most teens have their own TV with cable, VCR/DVD and CD players, and interactive video games all in the privary of their own rooms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Those who do not have these items almost always have friends who do. Most have their own computers and connection to the internet. They have access to virtually any kind and degree of violent and sexual content and anything else one could imagine. Interactive media create new degree of violent or sexual content and anything else one could imagine. Interactive medial creat a new dimension of potential harm as users partcipate and become emotionally involved in activites that are violent, erotic, or even both. Most teens have signed onto social networking sites (e.g. MySpace, Facebook). In addition to regular communication with friends and relatives, they may have electronic conversations with persons whose identities are completely unknown and whose motives may include sexual solicitation.

Print media are readily available to all children in their homes, schools, libraries, and throughout the community, but adults generally have control over their selection and distribution and can monitor their content. Electronic media raise greater concern because they are less open to parental scrutiny, especially internet access through cell phones and other hand-held devices such as Blackberries.  In the case of cable-TV, VCR/DVD, and the internet, parents may have no awareness of the content and very little control over the exposure.

Messages related to sex, drugs, and violence surround us at all times in most environments at various levels of explicitness and intensity. Each individual child, adolescent, and adult will interpret each message in the context of his or her upbringing, family environment, religion, culture, and many other influences. The same message may have harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects on different people and different effects on the same person under different circumstances.

It may be impossible to shield children and adolescents from exposure to all media messages that adults consider inappropriate or potentially harmful, yet it is possible to be aware of those messages and to balance them with appropriate facts and beliefs. It is possible to help children and adolescents learn how to distinguish messages that are designed to sell products, messages that are products in themselves, and messages that are informative or entertaining. It is possible to guide children and adolescents to media messages that encourage safety and good health and away from messages that promote unhealthy or high risk behaviors.

The following resources are listed to assist health professionals in helping patients and their families understand the risks and benefits of media exposure. The focus is on effects of media on children and adolescents. There are references that cover the media, (including music, video games, and the internet) in general, as well as references on media and their relationship to sexuality and violence.

It may be helpful to refer parents seeking information about what they can do to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Center for Media Education, or the Center for Media Literacy. If a parent is concerned about specific behaviors in his/her child, he/she should consult the child’s primary care health professional for guidance.

The following resources are available from ACOG:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Media and body image: a fact sheet for parents. In: Tool kit for teen care. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2009.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Internet safety: a fact sheet for parents. In: Tool kit for teen care. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2009.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fact sheet: media and body image. In: Tool kit for teen care. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2009.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fact sheet: Internet safety. In: Tool kit for teen care. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2009.

The resources listed below are for information purposes only.  Referral to these sources and sites does not imply the endorsement of ACOG.  Further, ACOG does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available from these organizations or on these web sites. These lists are not meant to be comprehensive.  The exclusion of a source or site does not reflect the quality of that source or site.  Please note that sites and URLs are subject to change without notice.



Children, adolescents, and television. American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Public Education. Pediatrics 2001;107:423-6.

Media education. American Academy of Pediatrics. Council on Communications and Media.. Pediatrics 2010;126:1012-7

Barradas DT, Fulton JE, Blanck HM, Huhman M. Parental influences on youth television viewing. J Pediatr 2007;151:369-73, 373.e1-4.

Brown JD, Cantor J. An agenda for research on youth and the media. J Adolesc Health 2000;27:2-7.

Brown JD, Witherspoon EM. The mass media and American adolescents' health. J Adolesc Health 2002;31:153-70.

Christakis DA, Zimmerman FJ. Children and television: a primer for pediatricians. Contemp Pediatr 2007;24(3):31-42.

Gidwani PP, Sobol A, DeJong W, Perrin JM, Gortmaker SL. Television viewing and initiation of smoking among youth. Pediatrics 2002;110:505-8.

Hogan MJ, Strasburger VC. Body image, eating disorders, and the media. Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2008;19:521-46, x-xi.

Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kasen S, First MB, Brook JS. Association between television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004;158:562-8.

Jordan AB, Kramer-Golinkoff EK, Strasburger VC. Does adolescent media use cause obesity and eating disorders? Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2008;19:431-49, viii-ix.

Primack BA, Swanier B, Georgiopoulos AM, Land SR, Fine MJ. Association between media use in adolescence and depression in young adulthood: a longitudinal study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2009;66:181-8.

Schmidt ME, Rich M. Media and child health: pediatric care and anticipatory guidance for the information age. Pediatr Rev 2006;27:289-98.

Strasburger VC. Children, adolescents, and advertising. Committee on Communications, American Academy of Pediatrics [published erratum appears in Pediatrics 2007;119:424]. Pediatrics 2006;118:2563-9.

Strasburger VC. Children, adolescents, and the media. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care 2004;34:54-113.

Strasburger VC. Getting teenagers to say no to sex, drugs, and violence in the new millennium. Med Clin North Am 2000;84:787-810, v.

Strasburger VC. Risky business: what primary care practitioners need to know about the influence of the media on adolescents. Prim Care 2006;33:317-48.

Strasburger VC, Donnerstein E. Children, adolescents, and the media in the 21st century. Adolesc Med 2000;11:51-68.

Strasburger VC, Hogan MJ, editors. Adolescents in the media [special issue]. Adolesc Med Clin 2005;16(2)

Strasburger VC, Jordan AB, Donnerstein E. Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics 2010;125:756-67.

Thompson KM. Addicted media: substances on screen. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2005;14:473-89, ix.

Villani S. Impact of media on children and adolescents: a 10-year review of the research. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2001;40:392-401.

Policy statement--Impact of music, music lyrics, and music videos on children and youth. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2009;124:1488-94.

Primack BA, Douglas EL, Fine MJ, Dalton MA. Exposure to sexual lyrics and sexual experience among urban adolescents. Am J Prev Med 2009;36:317-23.

Primack BA, Dalton MA, Carroll MV, Agarwal AA, Fine MJ. Content analysis of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs in popular music. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2008;162:169-75.

Quintanilla-Dieck Mde L, Artunduaga MA, Eavey RD. Intentional exposure to loud music: the second survey reveals an opportunity to educate. J Pediatr 2009;155:550-5.

Roberts KR, Dimsdale J, East P, Friedman L. Adolescent emotional response to music and its relationship to risk-taking behaviors. J Adolesc Health 1998;23:49-54.

Vogel I, Brug J, van der Ploeg CP, Raat H. Strategies for the prevention of MP3-induced hearing loss among adolescents: expert opinions from a Delphi study. Pediatrics 2009;123:1257-62.

Vogel I, Brug J, van der Ploeg CP, Raat H. Young people's exposure to loud music: a summary of the literature. Am J Prev Med 2007;33:124-33.

Video Games/Internet

Bleakley A, Merzel CR, VanDevanter NL, Messeri P. Computer access and Internet use among urban youths. Am J Public Health 2004;94:744-6.

Borzekowski DL. Adolescents' use of the Internet: a controversial, coming-of-age resource. Adolesc Med Clin 2006;17:205-16.

Bremer J. The internet and children: advantages and disadvantages. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2005;14:405-28, viii.

Cohall AT, Rickert V, Ryan O, editors. E-health [special issue]. Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2007;18(2).

Dowell EB, Burgess AW, Cavanaugh DJ. Clustering of Internet risk behaviors in a middle school student population. J Sch Health 2009;79:547-53.

Fuld GL. Social networking and adolescents. Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2009;20:57-72, viii.

Gould MS, Munfakh JL, Lubell K, Kleinman M, Parker S. Seeking help from the internet during adolescence. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2002;41:1182-9.

Haninger K, Thompson KM. Content and ratings of teen-rated video games. JAMA 2004;291:856-65.

Linkletter M, Gordon K, Dooley J. The choking game and YouTube: a dangerous combination. Clin Pediatr 2010;49:274-9.

Moreno MA, Parks MR, Zimmerman FJ, Brito TE, Christakis DA. Display of health risk behaviors on MySpace by adolescents: prevalence and associations. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009;163:27-34.

O’Keefe GS, Clarke-Pearson K, AAP Council on Communications and Media. Clinical report: The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics 2011; 127:800-4.

Stahl C, Fritz N. Internet safety: adolescents' self-report. J Adolesc Health 2002;31:7-10.

Ybarra ML, Mitchell KJ, Finkelhor D, Wolak J. Internet prevention messages: targeting the right online behaviors. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2007;161:138-45.

Sexuality – All Media

Ashby SL, Arcari CM, Edmonson MB. Television viewing and risk of sexual initiation by young adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2006;160:375-80.

Braun-Courville DK, Rojas M. Exposure to sexually explicit Web sites and adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors. J Adolesc Health 2009;45:156-62.

Brown JD, Strasburger VC. From Calvin Klein to Paris Hilton and MySpace: adolescents, sex, and the media. Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2007;18:484-507, vi-vii.

Chandra A, Martino SC, Collins RL, Elliott MN, Berry SH, Kanouse DE, et al. Does watching sex on television predict teen pregnancy? Findings from a national longitudinal survey of youth. Pediatrics 2008;122:1047-54.

Collins RL. Sex on television and its impact on American youth: background and results from the RAND Television and Adolescent Sexuality study. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2005;14:371-85, vii.

Kanuga M, Rosenfeld WD. Adolescent sexuality and the internet: the good, the bad, and the URL. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2004;17:117-24.

Leder MR, French GM. Children's exposure to sexual images in the media, and how to help protect your patients. Contemp Pediatr 2006;23(12):55-64.

Martino SC, Collins RL, Elliott MN, Kanouse DE, Berry SH. It's better on TV: does television set teenagers up for regret following sexual initiation? Perspect Sex Reprod Health 2009;41:92-100.

Media and contraception. Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. J Adolesc Health 2000;27:290-1.

Mitchell KJ, Finkelhor D, Wolak J. Online requests for sexual pictures from youth: risk factors and incident characteristics. J Adolesc Health 2007;41:196-203.

Mitchell KJ, Finkelhor D, Wolak J. Youth Internet users at risk for the most serious online sexual solicitations. Am J Prev Med 2007;32:532-7.

Policy statement – Sexuality, contraception, and the media. American Academy of Pediatrics

Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2010; 126:576-582.

Wolak J, Mitchell K, Finkelhor D. Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth Internet users. Pediatrics 2007;119:247-57.

Wolak J, Ybarra ML, Mitchell K, Finkelhor D. Current research knowledge about adolescent victimization via the Internet. Adolesc Med State Art Rev 2007;18:325-41, xi.

Wingood GM, DiClemente RJ, Harrington K, Davies S, Hook EW 3rd, Oh MK. Exposure to X-rated movies and adolescents' sexual and contraceptive-related attitudes and behaviors. Pediatrics 2001;107:1116-9.

Violence – All Media

Bensley L, Van Eenwyk J. Video games and real-life aggression: review of the literature. J Adolesc Health 2001;29:244-57.

Bushman BJ, Huesmann LR. Short-term and long-term effects of violent media on aggression in children and adults. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2006;160:348-52.

Ferguson CJ, Kilburn J. The public health risks of media violence: a meta-analytic review. J Pediatr 2009;154:759-63.

Funk JB. Children's exposure to violent video games and desensitization to violence. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2005;14:387-404, vii-viii.

Kuntsche E, Pickett W, Overpeck M, Craig W, Boyce W, de Matos MG. Television viewing and forms of bullying among adolescents from eight countries. J Adolesc Health 2006;39:908-15.

Olson CK, Kutner LA, Warner DE, Almerigi JB, Baer L, Nicholi AM 2nd, et al. Factors correlated with violent video game use by adolescent boys and girls. J Adolesc Health 2007;41:77-83.

Rich M, Woods ER, Goodman E, Emans SJ, DuRant RH. Aggressors or victims: gender and race in music video violence. Pediatrics 1998;101:669-74.

Policy statement--Media violence. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2009;124:1495-503.

Song EH, Anderson JE. How violent video games may violate children’s health. Contemp Pediatr 2001;18(5):102-20.

Worth KA, Gibson Chambers J, Nassau DH, Rakhra BK, Sargent JD. Exposure of US adolescents to extremely violent movies. Pediatrics 2008;122:306-12.

Ybarra ML, Mitchell KJ. Prevalence and frequency of Internet harassment instigation: implications for adolescent health. J Adolesc Health 2007;41:189-95.

Ybarra ML, Diener-West M, Markow D, Leaf PJ, Hamburger M, Boxer P. Linkages between internet and other media violence with seriously violent behavior by youth. Pediatrics 2008;122:929-37.

BOOKS FOR PROFESSONALS/PARENTS -  Books listed in this resource guide often may be found in university, secondary school, and/or public libraries along with similar books on this topic.

Anderson CA, Gentile DA, Buckley KE. Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: theory, research, and public policy. New York (NY): Oxford University Press; 2007.

Brown JD, Steele JR, Walsh-Childers K, editors. Sexual teens, sexual media: investigating media’s influence on adolescent sexuality. Mahwah (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2002.

Bryant J, Bryant JA, editors. Television and the American family. 2nd ed. Mahwah (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 2001.

Cash H, McDaniel K. Video games and your kids: how parents stay in control. Enumclaw (WA): Issues Press; 2008.

Comstock G, Scharrer E. Media and the American child. Burlington (MA): Elsevier; 2007.

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M2: media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Menlo Park (CA): KFF; 2010. Available at: Retrieved August 9, 2010.

Kelsey CM. Generation MySpace: helping your teen survive online adolescence. New York (NY): Marlowe; 2007.

Kirsh SJ. Children, adolescents, and media violence: a critical look at the research. Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage Publications; 2006.

Montgomery KC. Generation digital: politics, commerce, and childhood in the age of the Internet. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press; 2007.

O’Keefe GS. Cybersafe. Protecting and empowering kids in the digital world of texting, gaming, and social media. Chicago, IL, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011.

Panzarine S. Teenagers and the Internet: what every parent should know. Westfield (NJ): Town Book Press; 2001.

Rosen LD. Me, MySpace, and I: parenting the net generation. New York (NY): Palgrave Macmillan; 2007.

Strasburger VC, Wilson BJ, Jordan AB. Children, adolescents, and the media. 2nd ed. Los Angeles (CA): Sage; 2009.

Tobias T, Harry L. Kid culture: the hip parents handbook to navigating books, music, TV and movies in the digital age. Kennebunkport (ME): Cider Mill Press; 2008.

Willard NE. Cyberbullying and cyberthreats: responding to the challenge of online social aggression, threats, and distress. Champaign (IL): Research Press; 2007.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Facts for Families: No. 13, Children and TV violence
                                 No. 40, The influence of music and music videos
                                 No. 54, children and watching TV
                                 No. 59, Children online
                                 No. 67, Children and the news
                                 No. 90, Children and movies
                                 No. 91, Children and video games: playing with violence

American Academy of Pediatrics

Pamphlets: The Internet and your family
         Medicine and the media: how to make sense of the messages
         The ratings game: choosing your child’s entertainment
         Connected kids – pulling the plug on TV violence
         Television and the family

Center on Media and Child Health

Center for Media Literacy

Child Trends

Child Trends. Adolescents and electronic media: growing up plugged in. Research Brief. Publication #2009-29. Washington, DC: Child Trends; 2009. Available at Retrieved August 9, 2010.

Enough Is Enough

Internet  safety 101:
1-87-SAFE-TIP8 (1-877-233-8478)

Family Online Safety Institute

Resources: Top Internet safety tips for parents
         Internet safety tips for kids
         Children’s bill of rights on the Internet
         Family online internet safety contract

Federal Bureau of Investigation: Crimes Against Children

Resources: A parent’s guide to internet safety

The Future of Children

Brooks-Gunn J, Donahue EH, editors. Children and electronic media [special issue]. Future Child 2008;18(1).The Future of Children. Using the media to promote adolescent well-being. Policy Brief. Princeton (NJ): FOC; 2008.

Girls, Women + Media Project 


Caitlin Phelps, MA
Director of Gynecology

Lyndona Charles
Special Assistant, Gynecology and Ethics

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188 | Mailing Address: PO Box 70620, Washington, DC 20024-9998