Friday, March 30, 2007

Children and Television

"Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of life are especially important in the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Too much television can negatively affect early brain development. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important." –American Academy of Pediatrics

I share this quote for you parents who continue to use your television as a baby sitter, or a way to put your child to sleep, or as a dinner conversation replacement, or as a driving companion, or….well you get the idea. Your kids watch too much TV already which means that they have less human interaction and we now have people far smarter than me looking into why kids are less social and more overweight. I have a guess, not based on science but based off of the idea that 1+1 =2. Child sits at home and watches TV all day (1) + Child takes in calories while watching TV and doesn’t get calories out (1) = Child becomes overweight (2). Let’s try again. Parents don’t put any restrictions on TV for their child (1) + child doesn’t learn how to relate with real people (1) = child has a tougher time adapting to social situations as they get older (2). I know that there is a lot more that goes into obesity and social behavioral issues, but doesn’t this make sense as at least a part of the problem? A part that we actually have control over!!

The University of Michigan did a study and here is some of what they found (to find everything go to

>On average, kids spend nearly 4 hours a day watching television, DVDs and videos.
>68% of 8- to 18-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom; 54% have a DVD/VCR player, 37% have cable/satellite TV, and 20% have premium channels.
>In 63% of households, the TV is "usually" on during meals.
>In 53% of households of 7th- to 12th-graders, there are no rules about TV watching.
>In 51% of households, the TV is on "most" of the time.
>Kids with a TV in their bedroom spend an average of almost 1.5 hours more per day watching TV than kids without a TV in the bedroom.

On TV and violence:
>An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.
>Two-thirds of all programming contains violence.
>Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV.
>Most violent acts go unpunished on TV and are often accompanied by humor. The consequences of human suffering and loss are rarely depicted.
>Even in G-rated, animated movies and DVDs, violence is common—often as a way for the good characters to solve their problems. Every single U.S. animated feature film produced between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of violence with intent to injure has increased over the years.
>Children imitate the violence they see on TV. Children under age eight cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, making them more vulnerable to learning from and adopting as reality the violence they see on TV.

On TV and obesity:
>University of Michigan researchers found that just being awake and in the room with the TV on more than two hours a day was a risk factor for being
overweight at ages three and four-and-a-half.
>The effects can carry on into adult weight problems. Weekend TV viewing in early childhood affects body mass index (BMI), or overweight in adulthood.
>Researchers who investigated whether diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior or television viewing predicted
body mass index (BMI) among 3- to 7-year-old children, found that physical activity and TV viewing are most associated with overweight risk. TV was a bigger factor than diet. Inactivity and TV became stronger predictors as the children aged.
>Children who watch TV are more likely to be inactive and tend to snack while watching TV.
>Many TV ads encourage unhealthy eating habits. Two-thirds of the 20,000 TV ads an average child sees each year are for food and most are for high-sugar foods.
>All television shows, even educational non-commercial shows, replace physical activity in your child's life.
>While watching TV, the metabolic rate seems to go even lower than during rest. This means that a person would burn fewer calories while watching TV than when just sitting quietly, doing nothing.
>Results from recent studies have reported success in reducing excess weight gain in preadolescents by restricting TV viewing.

TV viewing is not a problem in the youth of today, it is a problem with the adults of today who refuse to put restrictions on the amount of time their children spend in front of the television. What ever happened to a parent taking their child out to the park to play catch (yes parents used to even do this after their work day)? What happened to a car ride where you actually had to talk to your children, maybe even find out something new that they were involved in? What happened to the dinner where everyone sat at the table together and talked…with no TV on?
Children don’t have the power to modify their TV time, adults do, so to say that TV viewing is a child problem you’d be wrong. The amount of time children spend in front of the TV is a parenting problem, so start parenting.

Oh yeah, for those of you that say your kid will out grow it, here is one more for you.

>One study looked at adults at age 26, and how much TV they had watched as children. Researchers found that "17% of overweight, 15% of raised serum cholesterol, 17% of smoking, and 15% of poor fitness can be attributed to watching television for more than 2 hours a day during childhood and adolescence."

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