Consulting, Research and Speaking on Health and Media Issues

What can we say about teen suicide?

During the past three years, six students at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County, Virginia died by suicide. Newton, Massachusetts lost three high school students to suicide in recent months. Both communities are heavily populated with high-achieving families, who start plotting their children’s pathways to elite colleges at ever-earlier ages. (My own son, who starts ... [Continue Reading]

Why video games are not like cigarettes…

A recent series of opinion pieces in the New York Times resurrected the debate on whether media violence causes actual crime or violence. One article dredged up a discredited claim that the link between media violence and actual violent behavior is "on par with the correlation of exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of lung cancer" (the original claim involved "first hand" ... [Continue Reading]

New book: Sports Videogames

If your household includes a preschooler, teenager or young adult, there's a good chance you already own a potentially powerful weapon against couch-potatodom: sports videogames. I say this because of a surprising finding from my Harvard video game surveys and focus groups. Our survey of middle-school youth found that boys who play realistic sports games (e.g., soccer, ... [Continue Reading]

Questioning assumptions

When I work with researchers or clinicians on media training and strategy, one thing I warn them about is false or misleading premises. Here is an example. I just did an interview on CNN’s Headline News, where the focus was a story that’s kicked around for several years: a 2006 video game sold in Japan, called RapeLay, that allows players to grope (with a disembodied hand) ... [Continue Reading]

Jamie Oliver’s fat chance

As a public health booster, you’d expect me to like the new Jamie Oliver reality show on ABC. The young British chef parachutes into a West Virginia town that boasts a frighteningly high obesity rate. There’s a new nutrition sheriff in town who’s gonna clean up this place–er, put healthful food on their school lunch plates. I do believe he truly wants to help. And it’s clear ... [Continue Reading]

Change the defaults

The other day, I heard an NPR health podcast titled “Bad Habits Die Hard–Will We Die With Them?” It includes an interview with Charlotte Schoenborn, a CDC statistician, who notes ruefully that after years of health education campaigns, there’s relatively little to show for these efforts: “It’s amazing how hard it is to change these personal health behaviors.” One problem is ... [Continue Reading]