Sunday, June 1, 2008

Can TV influence obesity or intellectual ability in children?

The number of young children with televisions in their bedrooms has increased, according to research by the Independent Television Commission. More than one third of children under the age of four, thirty-six (36) percent have a television in their bedroom, with fourteen (14) percent having a video recorder as well.

In a March 2008 article by Tara Parker-Pope, the NY Times reported in their Health Section that children with televisions in their bedroom score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems. Television is also strongly associated with being overweight and places the child at a higher risk of smoking. Research also indicates that children with televisions in their bedrooms spent less time reading.

A 2005 study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine is quoted relating to a year long study of 400 children in six northern California schools relating to their television, computer and video game habits. Seventy (70) percent had their own TV in their bedroom. These children “scored significantly and consistently lower on math, reading and language-arts tests.” A study in Pediatrics is quoted as showing that kindergartners with TVs in their bedrooms had more sleep problems.

I know there are many informative shows on television, even shows that report on this alarming trend. Yet our children’s television viewing habits are increasing.

The average child in the United States spends about 25 hours a week in front of the television, according to the latest annual "Media in the Home" survey, conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. A statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics includes the following language:

Pediatricians should recommend the following guidelines for parents:

1. Limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.
2. Remove television sets from children's bedrooms.
3. Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together.

So get the kids off the couch and out in the yard, or might I so boldly suggest swimming.

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