By Fr. Roy Cimagala

AN INTERESTING study has just been reported in an American paper about the effects of media on children.

Distilled from some 173 researches done over a period of the past 30 years, the report said there’s strong and disturbing correlation between children spending a lot of time with TV, video games, Internet, etc. and a variety of negative health effects.

“In a clear majority of those studies, more time with television, films, video games, magazines, music and the Internet was linked to rises in childhood obesity, tobacco use and sexual behavior,” it said.

“A majority also showed strong correlations—what the researchers deemed statistically significant associations—with drug and alcohol use and low academic achievement,” it continued.

The report is expectedly done in a language considered as politically correct at the moment. When it said that children’s overexposure to media can affect their brain development, I think they mean it can deform their consciences. When it said such exposure leads children to risky sexual behavior, I think they mean immoral, that is, sinful sexual practices. But, ok, I understand.

Those behind the study vowed to continue monitoring and studying the developments in this area of concern. One of them was surprised to find an absence of research into the impact of new technologies.

He said, “Media has evolved at a dizzying pace, but there’s almost no research about Facebook, MySpace, cellphones, etc.” It’s good that such concern is now being raised. Our challenge is how to identify dangerous trends in things that offer many practical advantages. And of course, what to do with it.

Pertinent to this observation, I have seen adults, not just children, badly affected by these new gadgets. They show signs of obsession and addiction, as they forget even to eat, lose sleep, and neglect other duties to their families, not to mention the spiritual ones, like prayer.

In short, many have become couch potatoes, glued to their seats for hours, completely dominated by what’s before them on the screen, disoriented and practically dead to the outside world and even their immediate surrounding. They live virtual lives.

I myself am having difficulties in this area. I am now tempted to declare for myself some email bankruptcy, since I receive so many of them everyday, mostly spams, that just to erase them not only wastes my time, but also raises my blood pressure.

It’s about time that we take serious steps to know more about this trend and to do something, even something drastic, about it. Our future is at stake. Our danger is not only from wars and terrorism. It can come right from our own homes. These technologies are notoriously treacherous.

This is, of course, a responsibility of everyone. Parents have the primary and most direct role to play. Then the teachers and other elders. But the government and also the media should do their part.

And given the latter’s capabilities and resources, they should do something massive and abiding to support the parents’ delicate duties in this regard. They cannot anymore be naïve and play blind. They have to boldly face the issue.

Those behind the study are precisely recommending this. And I’m very happy about that proposal. Alas, it seems the time has arrived for this concern to be taken seriously, and not anymore treated as an idea so wild it has to be chased away. I hope I’m not wrong.

On many occasions, I get deeply but helplessly bothered by what I see especially on noontime TV shows that are greedily lapped up by the people, especially the young ones and those who are mostly idle.

There’s so much inanity and frivolity, so much twisted values being flaunted with almost total impunity. People are given a daily diet of toxic entertainment. Sooner or later, the effects will show. We are now building up a potential moral and social explosion.

We need to liberate ourselves from such foolishness, hiding behind the excuse that people just want to have fun and amusement. The idea is not to kill fun, but to make it fit for human consumption.

Though things vary from person to person, family to family, group to group, concrete plans of actions have to be made to guide everyone for a prudent use of the new media technologies.