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TV Update

If you knew as a parent that a person or institution had a profound negative effect on your child’s body and brain what would you do? You’d very quickly make very sure that your child had no further contact with that person or institution.

Alas, many parents don’t seem to understand that TV AND OTHER SCREENS can have a profound negative effect on their child’s body and brain and behavior. How do I know this?

First of all the influence of TV is strong because children spend so much time watching TV. TV use by kids is at an eight-year high. Children 2 to 5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a screen; those 6 to 11, 28 hours.

The average is three hours a day watching TV. I bet this is more time than children spend with their parents in many households. When we add in computer and video game time, total time spent sitting in front of a screen is 5 to7 hours per day, 35 to 49 hours a week. There are 112 hours per week after we subtract sleep hours so if we subtract the 49 hours of screen time there are only 63 hours left for everything else.

71% of 8- to 18-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom and 20% have premium cable channels. TV is usually on during meals in two-thirds of households. Because TV is now available on many hand-held gadgets there is an increase in TV watching even though watching a TV set has declined.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS

Here is an update on the negative effects of TV . And for all the bad effects, the more time the child spends in front of a screen the worse the effects are. TV is a dose-related poison.

BODY

The most lethal effect of excess screen time is overweight and OBESITY. TV replaces physical activity because the child is sitting rather than playing outdoors. Kids eat lots of unhealthy snacks while watching. Commercials are designed to sell kids junk food. Fat kids grow up to be fat adults many with diabetes.

Children who watch a lot of TV may imitate high-risk stunts they have seen with resulting injury or death. TV promotes irregular sleep schedules in children which can lead to sleep disorders that may persist . TV may promote alcohol use as both drinking and advertisements for alcohol are common in TV programs. Although ads for cigarettes are banned on TV, many people are seen smoking. So one of the biggest risk factors that your child will smoke (bigger than parents or peers who smoke) is TV watching. Kids today get much if not most information about sex from TV where sex scenes have doubled since 1998. 70% of the top 20 shows most watched by teens contain sexual content.

BRAIN

There are studies linking early TV viewing with later attention problems, such as ADHD and one study found that TV viewing before age three slightly hurt several measures of later cognitive development. We are still learning about early brain development and don’t yet know all there is to know about the effects of TV on the developing brain But the American Academy of Pediatrics says: Don’t take a chance!

“These early years are crucial in a child’s development. The Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child’s development. Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it’s used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers. Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child’s development than any TV show.”

An Indiana University study compared 400 children’s reports about their self-esteem with their TV time. Watching TV makes white boys feel more confident about themselves. But watching TV makes black boys and girls of both races feel less good about themselves.

There are three powerful influences on children as powerful or even more so than the influence of their parents. Peers, school and TV. Parents keep track of their children’s peers, they want the best schools for their kids. But, maybe because TV is so ubiquitous, many parents don’t notice when the TV is on or monitor what their children are watching.

Please pay attention to all screens your child has access to and limit their usage (even computers being used for fun). Yes, TV has some positive effects. It can widen your children’s horizons and show them places, peoples, animals, and performances they would otherwise never see.

But think about the negative effects. Minimize then by monitoring what your kids watch and limiting TV stringently according to AAP guidelines: NO SCREEN TIME UNDER AGE 2. ONLY 1 to 2 HOURS PER DAY AFTER AGE 2. Dr Heins adds no TV on school nights which should be reserved for homework and reading.

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