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Of TV, Screens, Autism & Weight Control

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:05pm

In today’s medical news, researchers found that the more time young children spend in front of the TV, the less exposure they have to adult voices and the less likely they are to speak themselves (1).   This echoed a 2006 Cornell University study where researchers found that the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders. (2)

This caught my attention because children on the autistic spectrum have specific nutritional needs.  But since this morning’s report also mentioned the correlation between the hours of passive screen exposure (TV, computers, videogames) and childhood overweight, let’s look at the effect of passive screen time in young children.

Literature on the subject abounds.  For example, in a review of 31 possible early-life risk factors, television viewing was associated with increased risk of overweight at age seven. Incidentally, the presence of a television set in the bedroom outweighed the impact of hours of TV alone. High amounts of TV were shown to have a number of other negative outcomes: poor scholastic performance, poorer food choices, less sleep?, less play and limited social interaction.?(3)

We cannot deny that, over the last 50 years, the advent of “screens” has drastically altered our behaviours.  TV, of course, but also computers, video games, up to the latest iPhones and Blackberries, have generated a plugged-in society that passively feeds on images, craves instantaneous data and often suffers from information indigestion and facts intolerance.

 That we, insatiable adult consumers, should end up with leaner pocketbooks and fatter waistlines, is our personal choice.  But that we should blissfully expose our younger generations to well-known health and developmental risks is irresponsible.

It is utopia, however, to think of eliminating screen time.  Therefore, parents and educators have a duty to properly manage exposure to limit risks. 

- Turn the TV off and physically play. Hide-and-go-seek is a good start. Plastic bottles make for a great indoor bowling alley.  Small paper plates become indoor freesbees.  

- Cook with the kids.  I you don’t know how to cook, learn!  If kids are to eat well, parents need to teach them.  No one else will.

- Eat at the table, family style.  That’s right, even a family of two can sit together, eating and talking, with the TV off, the phones off, and no video game at the table.

It’s not too late to redress the odds and make sure that the younger generations do not, as reported, have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

References:

1 – Christakis D, et al “Audible television and decreased adult words, infant vocalizations, and conversational turns” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009; 163: 554-58.

2 – Waldman & al, “Does television cause autism?” Cornell University 2006

3 – Gibbons K, “Interventions for childhood overweight and obesity: a place for parenting skills” 2007 Jour. Dietitians Assoc. Australia 

Filed under: Lifestyle, diet, healthy lifestyle

In today’s medical news, researchers found that the more time young children spend in front of the TV, the less exposure they have to adult voices and the less likely they are to speak themselves (1).   This echoed a 2006 Cornell University study where researchers found that the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders. (2)

This caught my attention because children on the autistic spectrum have specific nutritional needs.  But since this morning’s report also mentioned the correlation between the hours of passive screen exposure (TV, computers, videogames) and childhood overweight, let’s look at the effect of passive screen time in young children.

Literature on the subject abounds.  For example, in a review of 31 possible early-life risk factors, television viewing was associated with increased risk of overweight at age seven. Incidentally, the presence of a television set in the bedroom outweighed the impact of hours of TV alone. High amounts of TV were shown to have a number of other negative outcomes: poor scholastic performance, poorer food choices, less sleep?, less play and limited social interaction.?(3)

We cannot deny that, over the last 50 years, the advent of “screens” has drastically altered our behaviours.  TV, of course, but also computers, video games, up to the latest iPhones and Blackberries, have generated a plugged-in society that passively feeds on images, craves instantaneous data and often suffers from information indigestion and facts intolerance.

 That we, insatiable adult consumers, should end up with leaner pocketbooks and fatter waistlines, is our personal choice.  But that we should blissfully expose our younger generations to well-known health and developmental risks is irresponsible.

It is utopia, however, to think of eliminating screen time.  Therefore, parents and educators have a duty to properly manage exposure to limit risks. 

- Turn the TV off and physically play. Hide-and-go-seek is a good start. Plastic bottles make for a great indoor bowling alley.  Small paper plates become indoor freesbees.  

- Cook with the kids.  I you don’t know how to cook, learn!  If kids are to eat well, parents need to teach them.  No one else will.

- Eat at the table, family style.  That’s right, even a family of two can sit together, eating and talking, with the TV off, the phones off, and no video game at the table.

It’s not too late to redress the odds and make sure that the younger generations do not, as reported, have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

References:

1 – Christakis D, et al “Audible television and decreased adult words, infant vocalizations, and conversational turns” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2009; 163: 554-58.

2 – Waldman & al, “Does television cause autism?” Cornell University 2006

3 – Gibbons K, “Interventions for childhood overweight and obesity: a place for parenting skills” 2007 Jour. Dietitians Assoc. Australia 

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