See Inside July / August 2011

Pop Star Psychology

Movies and TV shows can encourage risky behavior in children and teenagers, but teen idols have positive effects, too

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Video games, movies and television, Facebook and Twitter—for a couch-­potato child, digital culture is rarely more than a fingertip away. Young Americans spend on average about seven and a half hours a day with digital media. In fact, they often multitask, using many devices simultaneously to pack in some 10 hours and 45 minutes’ worth of content every day, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report. With kids devoting more free time to media than many adults spend at their full-time jobs, you would not be alone in wonder­ing what they are taking away from the experience.

Of course, hand-wringing over how TV and the Internet are warping young brains is hardly new. Even for kids bedazzled by tweets and text messages, video—whether on a smartphone, at a movie theater or on an actual TV—still dominates the digital landscape. Indeed, recent studies show that children and teenagers develop beliefs directly influenced by the movie characters and TV stars they observe.

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