stimuli. This pervasive experience has raised many questions about how media exposure, content, and context influence young people’s health, development, and behavior.
Researchers are increasingly concerned not only with how much time children spend with the media in general, but also with how they apportion their exposure over different sources and types of media. Furthermore, interest is growing in examining how the experience with media exposure, content, and context has changed over the decades in response to new media features and technologies as well as reflecting other social and economic trends. As an increasingly pervasive and vibrant part of the social ecology of children and youth, media influences have drawn the attention of parents, practitioners, and policy makers who seek to curb risky exposures as well as to identify ways to promote positive media practices that can foster healthy development.
These questions are extremely complicated to investigate. Recognizing the importance of this research, the Board on Children, Youth, and Families, under the auspices of the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, and with the sponsorship of the Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation, held a workshop in March 2006. Its purpose was twofold: to examine the quality of the measures used in studies of the effects of media on children’s health and development and to identify gaps in both research and practice. The goal was for a variety of experts to consider steps and strategies that could move this research forward and improve its utility for helping parents, practitioners, and policy makers guide young people in navigating a media-rich environment.
The specific charge to the Program Committee for a Workshop on Improving Research on Interactive Media and Children’s Health, which planned the workshop, was to consider:
The nature of key research literatures that examine different types of media exposure among children and youth; as well as the types of behaviors and interactions associated with media use (including television, video games, computers, cell phones, and the Internet);
The strengths and limitations of different types of measures used in studies of media, children, and youth; and
Opportunities and strategies for developing one or more studies in this field that can inform the development of research, policy, and practice guidelines regarding media use, content, controls, and guidance for children and youth.
The committee met once by phone and collaborated via electronic mail to develop strategies for describing how media research is conducted and the methodological issues it poses. This planning effort prompted the development of two background papers and a subsequent day-long discussion that included sessions on the state of the art in current measures of media exposure; the research designs, tools, and frameworks used in social epidemiological and prevention research; and the role of theory in explaining relationships among media exposure and outcomes. In this way the committee was able to represent a variety of perspectives, even though the available time would not allow for comprehensive coverage of any of the issues.
This report provides a summary of that discussion, supplemented with information from two papers prepared for the workshop, which are available at