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Unintentional injury depictions in popular children’s television programs


Objectives: The frequency and magnitude of depictions of risky events and unintentional injuries in top ranked children’s animated and live action television programs was assessed.

Methods: Qualitative and quantitative media content analysis were used. Scenes from television episodes were examined for the depiction of risky events and unintentional injuries.

Results: A total of 201 actual and potential injury related events were tabulated in 99 episodes aired in 2003 and 2004. Only 26% of the risky events depicted led to an injury or physical consequence. More than 80% of the events involved behavioral or environmental risk factors. Safety factors were not present in over 90% of risky events depicted. The general tone and context of events was humor or indifference rather than concern or action, with little or no relevance to the plot.

Conclusion: Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for children, yet animated and live action television programs marketed to children continue to portray injury risk inaccurately. Working with the children’s television production industry to improve injury depiction is a much needed advocacy activity.

  • unintentional injury
  • children’s television programs
  • media content analysis

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