Health and Psychology


Some research suggests that ICTs can have significant negative consequences for health, especially in children. However, researchers generally agree that fundamental questions remain unanswered.

Declining mental health. "Over the course of the twentieth century, in the developed world, one can demonstrate that on every measure of physical health and development, children's lives have been improved. More children, in the developed world, grow to adulthood. They are living longer. They are taller, healthier—but on just about any measure, their mental health has gotten worse. There are higher incidences of depression in children, higher incidences of all kinds of mental health problems… I would argue that the media environment children live in, where all kinds of violence and horrible things about the world are coming into their lives at ages where they can't cope, is playing a big role."

— Dr. Ellen A. Wartella
Dean and Professor of Communications
College of Communications
University of Texas at Austin

The exact effects of ICTs on the physical and mental well-being of users are not well established. Many aspects of television have been explored, particularly in relation to violence, but research on most other new media technologies remains preliminary at best. Much research to date suffers from defective methodology. In particular, researchers have often neglected to consider the content of new media as a critical factor.

Research has shown that ICTs, particularly television, can serve an effective educational role. However, this efficacious use is frequently inhibited by many factors, from parental failure (or inability) to supervise and limit TV watching to school systems' failure (or inability) to train teachers in how computers may best serve classroom goals.8 There are potential dangers to ICT use, particularly for the very young. However, many of these dangers can be mitigated through better design and appropriate adult supervision.

Further research is needed to discern the circumstances under which negative effects are most likely to emerge and who might be most vulnerable. Given that children, particularly those of elementary school age and younger, are still in formative stages of cognitive, social, and physical development, understanding the negative consequences of children's interaction with ICTs is extremely important.

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  1. See our interviews with Zajonc and Fishman.