Mental health of children being harmed by media?

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) have released a position statement called The impact of media on vulnerable children and adolescents, which assesses the mental health of children who engage in usage across youthful audiences.

Dr Maria Tomasic, RANZCP President, explains: “Families and people working with children need to be aware of the range of issues that media impacts upon, in order to provide optimal advice, support and care.

“There are particular concerns regarding the impact of media on children and young people with identified mental health difficulties, but all children are potentially vulnerable.”

RANZCP’s Chair, Dr Nick Kowalenko, also commented on the media’s ability to enhance childhood education: “Social media sites provide young people with opportunities to stay connected with friends, family and the world, and develop technical, creative and social skills.

“There are health benefits from the media with the internet providing information about health problems of relevance to young people such as stress, anxiety, depression and physical disorders. There are also effective online interventions for a number of mental health problems…”

Speaking of the risks associated with the mental health of children when considering media usage, Dr Kowalenko outlined instances of online danger such as excessive internet use turning into addiction, sexualisation of children, cyber bullying and aggression.

The statement makes the following recommendations in relation to how the media impacts the mental health of children:

  • All mental health and education workers should encourage use of the media in a way that enhances education.
  • Access and affordability of media needs to be addressed.
  • There should be public awareness of how the problematic use of media could lead to adverse setbacks in normal development.
  • The responsibility for media usage should be balanced across several levels including family, school, community and government.
  • Parents, carers and those working with young people need to be aware of the risks associated with media usage.
  • Education should be broadened in the area of media literacy to cover issues of cyber safety.
  • Workers in the field should seek to assess a person’s use of media.
  • Measures at state and federal level should be taken to protect children and young people against sexualisation through the media.
  • Psychiatrists should acknowledge that they are adequately placed to work with children and young people with mental health problems where negative media experience plays a role; and
  • Research must continue in order to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the associated risks of media usage.

Have your say: How can media usage harm the mental health of children?

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