Tag Archives: television

Study: Mental Health Deteriorates With Increased Television

In many previous blogs I’ve reminded you of the dangers of television exposure to your children and teens. Now, here’s a warning for us adults: a new study has found that watching more than 4 hours of TV a day has an adverse effect on mental well-being. Here are the details from LifeSiteNews.com:

The study was conducted by Mark Hamer, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, and research associates Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, and Gita D. Mishra, PhD. It analyzed the association of leisure-time sedentary behavior in adults, measured by television and screen-based entertainment (TVSE) time, and mental health.

The researchers looked at mental health survey data of 3920 men and women between the ages of 35 and 65 years, from the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the mental health component of the 12-Item Short-Form Survey Instrument (MCS-12) were administered to obtain information on current mental health. Self-reported TVSE time, physical activity, and general health were also measured.

Approximately a quarter of the participants in the study engaged in at least four hours a day of watching screen-based entertainment.

After adjustment for age, gender, physical activity, smoking, alcohol, fruit and vegetable intake, the researchers found that participants with the highest TVSE level had the highest instances of mental health problems compared with participants in the group with the lowest TVSE level of less than 2 hours per day.

The report concludes that, while sedentary behavior is known to be an independent risk factor for physical health, mental well-being also deteriorates with more time spent in front of the TV.

“Sedentary behavior in leisure time is independently associated with poorer mental health scores in a representative population sample,” Dr. Hamer wrote.

An abstract, with links to the full text of the study, titled “Television- and Screen-Based Activity and Mental Well-Being in Adults” is available here.

Too Much Screen Time Can Threaten Attention Span

Kids and young adults who overdo TV and video games are almost twice as likely to have a wide variety of attention span problems — at least according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News:

Too much time spent watching television and playing video games can double the risk of attention problems in children and young adults, new research finds.

The study is the latest of many to point out the ill effects of excessive screen time, whether at the computer or the television.

Researcher Edward Swing, a graduate student at Iowa State University, compared participants who watched TV or played video games less than two hours a day — the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children aged 2 and older — to those who watched more.

“Those who exceeded the AAP recommendation were about 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have greater than average attention problems,” he said.

The middle schoolers he studied were a little less likely than the college students to have attention problems with excess TV and video game participation.

Swing and his colleagues looked at two age groups. They assessed more than 1,300 children in the third, fourth and fifth grades over a 13-month time period. They also looked at 210 college students for a one-time evaluation.

“The children were reporting their TV and video game use and the parents were also reporting TV and video game use,” Swing said. “The teachers were reporting attention problems,” he said of the middle school students.

Teachers reported if children had problems staying on task, paying attention, if they interrupted other children’s work, or showed problems in other areas that reflected trouble with attention.

College students did self-reports on their attention problems.

Middle school students spent an average of 4.26 hours a day watching TV or playing video games, the team found, while older students spent 4.82 hours daily.

Previous studies have also linked screen time with attention problems.

“There may well be a relation between television viewing and attention problems,” said Dr. David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University and author of The Power of Play.

But he had some caveats about the new study. “Teacher ratings of attention deficit have been shown in other studies not to be consistent over time,” Elkind noted.

In response, Swing said they did have more than one teacher rating the children and that the ratings tended to be in agreement.

“This is an important finding,” according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the George Adkins Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. He, too, has researched the topic.

“ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] is 10 times more common today than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “Although it is clear that ADHD has a genetic basis, given that our genes have not changed appreciably in that timeframe, it is likely that there are environmental factors that are contributing to this rise.” He and other experts suspect excessive media as a contributor.

“These media aren’t going away,” Christakis said. “We do have to find ways to manage them appropriately.”

“Content matters,” he said. His own research found that the faster-paced shows increased the risk of attention problems. Why? “You prime the mind to accept that pace. Real life doesn’t happen fast enough to keep your attention.”

Elkind also pointed out that, “it makes a difference what kind of show or computer games the child is playing.” Shooting games, for instance, are different than problem-solving computer games.

The study should have accounted for these variables, he said.

Swing agreed, and added he hopes to study that next. Meanwhile, he said, the recommendation of less than two hours a day of screen time seems prudent.

Stricter Rules Can Steer Kids Away From TV

I’ve blogged on the facts that (1) “Too Many Tots Watching Too Much TV” and (2) most parents don’t when children under two years of age are exposed to watching television that his has potential harms.

There is NO scientific evidence that shows that television and video viewing in children of this age has any educational benefit.

Instead, there have been several studies that have shown that TV viewing at 2 years of age and younger can have negative impacts on learning, language and attention and it’s also linked to childhood obesity.

And physically active kids watch less television, researchers are now reporting.

So, who can make a difference? You know the answer … it’s the parent!

Here’s a report with the details from HealthDay News: — Children whose parents set limits on the amount of time spent watching television actually watch less TV, a new study finds.

Moreover, children who are physically active tend to spend less time in front of the tube, the researchers added.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends up to two hours of TV for children over 2 years of age,” said lead researcher Susan A. Carlson, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We found that when children and parents agreed on the rules they were least likely to exceed the limit,” she said.

Carlson noted that limiting TV time is important, because watching too much TV or spending too much time on the computer or playing video games is associated with an increased risk for obesity, alcohol abuse, early sexual practice, negative body concept, eating disorders, aggressive behavior and doing poorly in school.

Children’s TV time should be spent watching “quality programs,” Carlson said. “Children under 2 shouldn’t be watching TV at all,” she added.

Some of these problems may not be related to the time spent watching TV, but rather to the content of the programs, she noted.

The report was released online in the journal Pediatrics.

For the study, Carlson’s team surveyed the parents and children in 5,685 homes, asking about how much time children spent watching TV and whether there were rules limiting TV time.

In addition, the researchers asked about how physically active the children were.

In total, the study authors interviewed 7,415 children aged 9 to 15 years.

The researchers found that 27 percent of the children watched more than the recommended two hours a day of TV. Boys, blacks and poorer children were more likely to watch more than the recommended amount of TV than others, Carlson’s group noted.

But, children who said that their parents set limits on TV watching were less likely to watch more than their parents allowed, the researchers found.

In addition, children who were physically active either in organized sports or in free-time play were less likely to watch more than a couple of hours of TV a day, Carlson’s team found.

Carlson thinks parents are role models in both watching TV and physical activity. “Parents can be the best role model,” she said.

“Parents need to limit the amount of their children’s screen time and they should be encouraging their kids to participate in physical activity,” Carlson said.

Jennifer Manganello, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at the School of Public Health at the University at Albany in New York, said: “Given findings from this study and the fact that limiting media use for youth is recommended by experts, parents may want to consider rules they can establish to reduce time spent with screen media as well as other strategies that can decrease media use, such as removing a TV from a childs bedroom.”

Dr. Tracie Miller, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that “parental regulations and influences are always powerful for children.”

The question is how this can make a dent in the obesity epidemic among children, she said.

Miller noted that the obese and overweight children she treats usually have one parent who is obese or overweight. In addition, physically unfit children tend to have physically unfit parents, she said.

“Taking time to be physically active with your kids is an important thing for me as a parent and for my children as well,” Miller said.

Miller tells her overweight patients that it is not their problem, it’s the family’s problem. “It won’t work if you treat a child in isolation,” she said.

“If the parent is watching 12 hours of TV a day and you are yelling at your kids to go out and play, while you’re watching TV with a bag of chips in your face, it will never work,” she said.

Miller admits that there is a high failure rate. “There are successes, but it takes a lot of work,” she said.

To get kids to lose the weight requires parents to turn off the TV and computer and get active with their children, and doctors and other health professionals can help by coaching children and their parents to stay with a program, Miller said.

So, what’s a parent to do? I’ve written a book with many practical suggestions on helping your child (and family) make more healthful nutrition and activity decisions. The book is SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threatand is currently on sale here in both soft- and hard-cover versions.


Too Many Tots Watching Too Much TV: Study

This headline is no surprise to long-time readers of this blog. But, despite the recommendations that children (over age two) be exposed to no more than two hours of screen time a day, and the recommendation that children two years of age and younger be exposed to NO TV, a study from Oregon finds that about than 1 in 5 of these very young children are exposed to MORE than the recommended 2 hours a day.

Here’s a report from HealthDay News: A study of 2-year-olds in Oregon finds that almost 20 percent watch more than the recommended two hours of television a day.

“The findings are pretty generalizable to the rest of the country,” said study co-author Dr. John Oh, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working with Oregon Public Health.

Experts have warned that too much time in front of the TV could hamper a young child’s mental development and raise the odds for obesity, and the new findings are “what many pediatricians know and have feared,” said Dr. Gwen Wurm, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She was not involved in the study.

According to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children’s TV time should be limited to no more than one or two hours a day of “quality programming,” and TV sets should be kept out of their bedrooms.

However, Wurm said, “we know that many, many children are watching too much television. When TV becomes a major part of a child’s life, there’s a problem.”

“That goes for anything that involves screen time,” including computers and video games, she added. “Anything that involves a screen is really where the problem is at.”

The study was published in the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In the report, Oh and colleagues used data from the Oregon Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey to determine the TV watching habits of 2-year-olds throughout the state.

They found that on an average day, 19.6 percent of 2-year-olds watched at least two hours of TV. Several factors were associated with the amount of TV these children watched.

For example, about 36 percent of black mothers reported their child watched at least two hours of TV a day, compared with just under 19 percent of white mothers. Also, children who had a TV placed in their room were more likely to watch a lot of TV (about 34 percent) than children without a TV in the room (16.3 percent), according to the report.

Being kept at home throughout the day mattered, too. Almost 23 percent of the children who went on fewer than four outings a week watched at least two hours of TV a day, compared with 14.5 percent of the children who went on frequent outings.

Moreover, children who spent time in a child care center were less likely to watch a lot of TV (7.8 percent) than children who didn’t (about 23 percent) or children who had other types of child care (18.6 percent), the researchers found.

Limiting the amount of TV children watch when very young may help reduce the amount of time they spend on media as they get older, the researchers said.

Right now, the average school-age child spends 4.5 hours watching television each day and 7.5 hours using media overall, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found.

“Most parents, probably don’t recognize that watching television in this age group has potential harms,” Oh said.

“There is no scientific evidence that shows that television and video viewing in children of this age has any educational benefit. Instead, there have been several studies that have shown that TV viewing at 2 years of age and younger can have negative impacts on learning, language and attention and it’s also linked to childhood obesity.”

Too much screen time can take a toll on a child’s development, Wurm agreed.

“The more kids are spoken to, the better their language development,” she said.

“When children are engaged in the television, they are not being spoken to by adults. We know that cognitive development is linked to speech development, so children who don’t learn to speak well, those are the kids who will not reach their cognitive potential.”

The problem, Wurm said, is that TV can become a substitute for a “healthy interaction with adults and other humans. Parents often discount what they mean to their child. There is nothing a child likes more than sitting down and doing something with their parent.”

In addition, because images on TV go by at lighting speed, it may be taking a toll on a child’s ability to concentrate and may be partly responsible for the increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children, Wurm theorized.

And there’s a potential physical cost of too much media in childhood — obesity, due in part to the kind of foods children see advertised, Wurm said. “They advertise Apple Jacks not apples,” she said.

The solution, according to Wurm, is simple: turn off the TV and spend more time with your kids, and get them outdoors more often.

“The more outside time your children have, the healthier they are going to be,” she said.

So, what’s a parent to do? I’ve written a book with many practical suggestions on helping your child (and family) make more healthful nutrition and activity decisions. The book is SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat and is currently on sale here in both soft- and hard-cover versions.

Long-term harm seen with too much TV for toddlers

The more TV a toddler watches, the higher the likelihood they will do badly at school and have poor health at the age of 10, researchers warn. The study of 1,300 children by Michigan and Montreal universities found negative effects on older children rose with every hour of toddler TV. Performance at school was worse, while consumption of junk foods was higher.

Here are the details from BBC News: The study, part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure, asked parents how much TV their children watched at 29 months (two years and five months) and 53 months (four years and five months).

On average, the two-year-olds watched just under nine hours of TV per week, while for four-year-olds the average was just under 15 hours. But 11% of the two-year-olds and 23% of four-year-olds watched more than the recommended maximum of two hours of TV a day.

When the children were revisited at the age of 10, teachers were asked to assess the children’s academic performance, behaviour and health, while body mass index (BMI) was measured at 10 years old. Higher levels of TV viewing at two was linked to a lower level of engagement in the classroom and poor achievement in maths.

Researchers also found a decrease in general physical activity but an increase in the consumption of soft drinks and in BMI (body mass index).

‘Common sense’

Dr Linda Pagani, of the University of Montreal, who led the research which was published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, said: “Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour.

“High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits.

“Common sense would suggest that television exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks that foster cognitive, behavioural and motor development.”

And she added:”Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting.

“Our findings make a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood.”

The UK’s National Literacy Trust campaigns to raise awareness of how to police a toddler’s viewing.

It said that until research demonstrated that children under two might benefit from TV, parents should, “limit exposure and encourage other one-to-one language-enhancing activities that centre on talk at mealtime, bath time, shared reading and imaginative play”.

But it added: “Encourage exposure to some high-quality, age-appropriate educational television for children aged two to five.”

‘Radical’

British Psychological Society member Dr Aric Sigman has carried out his own research, which highlighted concerns over young children watching too much TV.

He said: “My recommendation to the government five years ago, and even as recently as three years ago, that they merely issue general guidelines on the amount of TV that children watch and the age at which they start was considered radical and controversial.

“Yet a growing body of evidence is now causing governments and health authorities elsewhere to do just that, and we need to as well.

“This is yet another study reinforcing the need for our society to finally accept that quite aside from good or bad parenting, children’s daily screen time is a major independent health issue.”

So, the bottom line, it seems to me, is the less TV time your children have, the better.

Also, I have a number of blogs on TV and kids:

For tips on how to decrease TV time for you and your children, order one of these books:

More TV for toddlers equals school trouble later

Toddlers who watch too much TV may struggle in school later, with measurably lower scores in math, Canadian and U.S. researchers reported recently.

Less surprisingly, children who watched more TV at age 2 weighed more by the time they were 10 and ate more snacks and soft drinks, the researchers reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

“The results support previous suggestions that early childhood television exposure undermines attention,” wrote Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and colleagues at Bowling Green University in Kentucky and the University of Michigan.

They said children who spend more time watching TV and less time playing with other kids may lose valuable chances to learn social skills.

The researchers started with more than 2,000 children taking part in a larger study. Their parents reported how much TV the children watched at 2-1/2 and later at 4-1/2 year old.

The checked with the children’s teachers and doctors when the subjects were 10.

Every additional weekly hour of television at 29 months corresponded to a 7 percent drop in classroom attention and a 6 percent drop in math skills, the researchers found.

An hour more TV a week as a toddler meant a child was 10 percent more likely to be bullied, exercised 13 percent less, weighed 5 percent more and ate 10 percent more snacks, they found.

“Despite clear, age-specific recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that discourage any screen media exposure during infancy and less than two hours per day beyond 2 years of age, parents show poor factual knowledge and awareness of such existing guidelines,” the researchers wrote.

So, the bottom line, it seems to me, is the less TV time your children have, the better.

Also, I have a number of blogs on TV and kids:

For tips on how to decrease TV time for you and your children, order one of these books:

Daycare May Feed Your Kids’ TV Habit

According to a AP story, “Parents who thought their preschoolers were spending time in home-based day cares, taking naps, eating healthy snacks and learning to play nicely with others may be surprised to discover they are sitting as many as two hours a day in front of a TV, according to a study published Monday.”

When added to the two to three hours many parents already admit to allowing at home, preschoolers in child care may be spending more than a third of the about 12 hours they are awake each day in front of the electronic baby sitter, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington.

That’s double the TV time he found in a previous study based on parental reports of home viewing, according to findings published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The study is the first to look at TV watching in child care in more than 20 years.

The figures come from a telephone survey of 168 licensed child care programs in Michigan, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts. Christakis said he thought television use was probably underreported.

Of the child care programs surveyed, 70 percent of home-based child cares and 36 percent of centers said children watch TV daily. The children were watching TV, DVDs and videos. The study did not track what kind of programs were shown.

“It’s not what parents have signed up for,” Christakis said. “I’m not sure how many parents are aware of this.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any television viewing of any kind in the first 2 years of life and recommends a daily limit of 1 to 2 hours of quality programming for older children.

Children go to day care to develop social skills, build on cognitive abilities and enjoy imaginative play, as well as allowing their parents to work, Christakis said.

“We know what’s good for children and we know what’s not,” Christakis said. “High quality preschool can make a very, very positive difference. We’re so far from meeting that, that we really have a lot of work to do.”

His research found a difference between the amount of TV watching at home daycares and larger child care centers, although both reported some TV time.

The study found that among preschool-aged children, those in home-based day cares watched TV for 2.4 hours per day on average, compared to 24 minutes in centers. Toddlers watched an average of 1.6 hours in home care and about 6 minutes in centers. Only home-based day cares admitted putting infants in front of the TV, for an average of 12 minutes a day.

“It’s alarming to find that so many children in the United States are watching essentially twice as much television as we previously thought,” he said.

Other research has connected excessive TV watching during the preschool years with language delay, obesity, attention problems and aggression.

Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, wasn’t surprised by the findings in this study but he was forgiving of the parents and child care providers who put kids in front of the TV.

“In general, we still have a culture that sees television as benign,” said Rich, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard University. “This is an area where we’re learning more and more all the time.”

He compared society’s growing knowledge of the impact of TV on child development to the early days of seat belt use. Today’s parents and child care providers grew up on TV, Rich said, so it’s understandable that they do not recognize the problem.

“We can always do better,” he said.

Christakis said one of the main problems with TV for young children is that it takes away time that could otherwise be spent playing outside, being read to, playing with blocks and talking with adults and other children.

The study did not include passive TV time, when the TV is on in the background but no one is actively watching it. Christakis said any time a TV is on, children speak less and adults interact with them less frequently.

Instead of urging parents to turn off the TV, President Barack Obama might want to start sending the same message to child care providers, Christakis said.

“Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call,” he said.

If you want tips on reducing or eliminating TV time from your home, I have bunches of them in my books:

Also, I have a number of blogs on TV and kids:

Yet another study suggests television viewing may impair children’s language development

As most parents will admit, nothing can occupy a child quite like the boob tube. What shocks most parents to learn is that more than a half dozen studies now suggest that the TV babysitter has a steep price: the more time babies spend sitting in front of a TV screen, the more their social, cognitive and language development may suffer. A brand new study add to others showing that TV-viewing tends to decrease babies’ likelihood of learning new words, talking, playing, and otherwise interacting with others.

More information: Continue reading

A blast from the past – YouTube video shows Dr. Walt’s ‘groundbreaking’ web events of 1999

Speaking of memories (here on Memorial Day), I have fond memories of hosting a live, 5-night-a-week, cable TV show, “Ask the Family Doctor” on America’s Health Network and then Fox’s Health Network from 1995 – 2000. All-in-all, about 854 shows. Perhaps none was more watched than the first live birth on the Internet.

More Information: Continue reading

Turn off TV during meals or kids may get fat: study

Reuters is reporting a study of childhood obesity in which University of Toronto nutritionist Harvey Anderson found that kids who watched TV while eating lunch took in 228 extra calories than those who ate without the television on. “One of Anderson’s conclusions is that eating while watching television overrides our ability to know when to stop eating,” the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, which funded the study, said on Tuesday.

My Take? Continue reading