As a doctor you never know when you could be called upon to handle a life and death emergency, but yesterday was one of those days. I arrived on the scene to be informed the patient had chest pain and looked very ill. I rushed to the scene and the picture just got worse; it was a 21-year-old female, pregnant with chest pain and a head injury. I did the basics asking for oxygen, pain relief and investigations. The news kept getting worse. Test results showed a heart attack and a severe chest infection. It also turns out she had a penetrating brain injury.
The good news is within 10 minutes we had the situation under control having carried out neurosurgery, stented the coronary arteries and delivered the babies, which---rather surprisingly---turned out to be a lobster from a Disney film and Winnie the Pooh.
As you may have guessed the 'medical emergency' I was presented with was fortunately suffered by my daughter's teddy bear! She has become a big fan of medical dramas on TV and views herself as something of an expert when it comes to emergency medicine. I have to say, I'm not sure I totally approve of five-year-olds watching such programs, but she seems totally undisturbed by it and, frankly, I have limited say in our house about what goes on.
On reflection she is learning about the realities of the world, health, keeping herself and others safe and, with any luck, she'll want to go into TV; thus saving me university fees. A lot appears in the media, ironically, about the negative impact of TV on children The reality is, as ever, more complex than 'TV=bad', 'playing in fresh air=good'.
Children do mimic what they see and there is evidence of association between TV violence and anti-social behaviour. But it is unclear if violent media causes it or the viewing of violence is just a marker for other social problems or genetic predispositions. There is also evidence the other way, with educational TV (such as Sesame Street) being shown to improve cognition and pro-social behaviour.
The reality is the world and social development in children is immensely complex, mediated by multiple factors that interact, but that doesn't make for a quick sound bite on the news.
Personally, I'm going to take the common sense view and whilst my daughter is using TV to generate imaginative pro-social play she can watch it. As soon as I catch her mimicking the alcohol addled, violent or abusive characters it will be time to think again.