Children and Screen Media Effects: Theoretical Underpinnings, Empirical Observations and Policy Implications
The paper critically explores the body of research on screen media effects on children as an emerging frontier of scholarship. Screen media is used in reference to media that are both non-interactive (eg TV) and interactive (games) that present a variety of modalities including images, graphics, video, audio and text. Using narrative review as a strategy and based on core databases, media and pediatric resources, studies that encompassed observational research, randomised controlled trials, quasi-experimental trials, cohort studies, case-control studies and cross-sectional studies are critically analyzed in respect of categories of screen media issues and debates, first globally and then nationally. Whilst there are areas of consensus, the review shows that the media effects literature is also characterized by inconsistency of findings. The review further indicates that, although there is burgeoning literature on children by Ethiopian scholars, there is a dearth of child-focused screen technology related studies to be of help in policy formulation, protection and promotion of the wellbeing of Ethiopian children. To address the identified lacunae in the children and screen media research spectrum, directions for research are outlined to consider emerging screen media realities unfolding in Ethiopia and their effect on children at home and in school contexts. Further, it is proposed that the area of children and screen media deserves attention from policy makers and media authorities.