Nearly 16 million American children between the ages of 2 and 11 spent time online in May, according to a new study from Nielsen. Although the youngest children aren’t actually surfing the Web, the report found that many tots are exposed to the internet, often while sitting in a parent’s lap. Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Children’s isn’t surprised at the findings, but he is concerned that children are being introduced to the online world without much forethought. “The Internet is a commercial venture and every Web site is selling something, whether it is a product, an idea or brand loyalty,” says Rich. “The Web is a pervasive presence and a powerful tool. Much can be learned and much good can come from its thoughtful, directed use.” But he warns that, like when learning to drive a car, children must become adept with the Internet, recognizing the benefits and respecting the risks before they can use it safely.
From cyberbullying and violent video games to social networking and sexting, parents can be overwhelmed by the new media environment and how it affects their children. To help them navigate this new and changing landscape, the CMCH launched Ask the Mediatrician. Rich will tackle any and all questions parents have related to media and their child’s health. Ask a question today!