In the six countries covered in this study, entertainment media are felt to help more than hinder health and wellness, although some respondents expressed concern for the potential negative effects of entertainment media on their child’s physical well-being. A majority of respondents in households with children feel children’s entertainment media help with development of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills (57%). However, a substantial minority also believes exposure to entertainment media can lead to poor health and obesity (45%) and contribute to poor concentration among children (42%).
The position that entertainment media help with hand-eye coordination and development of fine motor skills among children is stronger in Gulf states (64%), where the use of mobile tablets and video games is more likely than the other countries in the study. This is most strongly felt in Saudi Arabia and Qatar (70% and 65%, respectively).
Western expatriates are much more likely than are Arab nationals to believe entertainment media can have a beneficial effect on children’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills (75% vs. 54%, respectively). In Qatar, though, both nationals and expats share a similarly positive viewpoint on the matter.
The perceived link between entertainment media and poor health is not as strong, but still a potential cause for concern. Nearly half of respondents with children in the household feel exposure to entertainment media can contribute to poor health and obesity (45%), while a third disagree (31%). The belief that entertainment media contribute to weight gain among children is particularly acute in Qatar, where two-thirds of respondents with children in the household see a connection (65%); a majority also expresses concern in Saudi Arabia (53%). Concern about the impact on health is consistent across ethnicities in these countries. Egyptians are much less likely to be concerned about a link between media and poor health among children (23%).
The belief in a link between children’s entertainment media and poor health and obesity increases with age. Four in ten of those under 25 who live in a household with a child under 18 feel children’s entertainment leads to poor health and obesity; this is compared with over half of those 45 or older. A belief in this link also differs according to education; those with university degrees, for instance, are much more likely than those with only primary education to accept a linkage (51% vs. 32%).
Nearly half of people in the MENA region in a household with children agree that exposure to entertainment media creates lack of focus or attention deficit in children (42%); only 28% disagree. As with other health-related factors considered in the study, there are considerable differences of opinion between countries, with Egyptians being the most skeptical by far (only 15% agree). Only in Qatar does a majority express concern about a connection between entertainment media and children’s lack of focus and attention (63%). Qataris and other Arabs in the country are more concerned about the impact of entertainment media on attention than non-Arab expats living in Qatar, although the majority of all groups assume a linkage.