Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Children who spend a lot of time watching television or playing with smartphones or tablets are more likely to gain weight than kids who have less screen time, according to a new study. The new research is the latest in a long string of findings that link weight issues with screen time. More from Reuters:
Many parents believe their children are getting a reasonable amount of recreational screen time, Mark Tremblay said. But most U.S. and Canadian kids exceed the recommended two-hour maximum per day.
“We don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s half an hour here, half an hour there, an hour here, an hour there,” Tremblay told Reuters Health. He is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and wasn’t involved in the new study.
Researchers used data from a long-term study of kids who took surveys every other year. The surveys included questions about their height and weight as well as how much time they spent watching TV and DVDs and playing computer and videogames.
Kids were between ages nine and 16 when the study started.
Out of about 4,300 girls in the study, 17 percent were overweight or obese. Twenty-four percent of the 3,500 boys were also above a healthy weight.
From one survey to the next, each one-hour increase in children’s daily TV watching was tied to an increase of about 0.1 points on a body mass index (BMI) scale, which measures weight in relation to height. That’s a difference of approximately half a pound per extra hour of TV.
Increases in total screen time between survey periods were linked with similar but smaller changes in BMI.
“The weight of the evidence is pretty strong that television viewing is related to unhealthy changes in weight among youth,” Jennifer Falbe said.
But, she told Reuters Health, “It’s important for parents to be aware of all the potentially obesogenic screens that they should really be limiting in their children’s lives.” Increases in DVD and video watching were tied to weight gain among girls, in particular.
Falbe led the study while at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. She is now at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
Image: Kids watching TV, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
American kids and teens are watching slightly less television, and getting slightly more exercise, than they were 10 years ago, according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics. Unfortunately, the findings don’t also report a decline in childhood obesity rates, but they are an encouraging sign nonetheless. More from NBC News:
Using surveys conducted in middle and high schools, researchers also found increases in the number of days youth reported having breakfast each week and in how often they ate fruits and vegetables. Those trends have corresponded to a leveling off in obesity rates, but not a decline, the study showed.
“I would like to believe that all the public health efforts focusing on increasing physical activity and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are having an effect, because that seems to be a pattern,” Ronald Iannotti, the lead author on the study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, said.
“The fact that (obesity) is leveling off, that’s a surprise and a major change from the steady increase that we’ve seen,” Iannotti, who worked on the study while at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md., said. “This is great news.”
He and co-author Jing Wang analyzed surveys given to a nationally representative sample of students in 6th through 10th grades in 2001-2002, 2005-2006 and 2009-2010 as part of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study. Each survey period included responses from between 9,000 and 15,000 adolescents.
The researchers found “encouraging” trends on measures of most diet and lifestyle habits.
For example, the number of days each week that kids reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes increased from 4.3 in 2001-2002 to 4.5 in 2009-2010, with similar trends among boys and girls. Likewise, youth reported eating breakfast on three school days each week on the first survey and 3.3 days on the last.
The average number of hours students spent watching TV each day fell from 3.1 to 2.4, with drops in both weekday and weekend viewing.
Frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption also rose slightly – although it remained at less than one daily serving of each, on average – and consumption of sweets and soft drinks fell.
However, the proportion of survey participants who were overweight or obese, based on their own height and weight reports, did not decrease, the researchers wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
Image: Kids playing outside, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
A new study by a San Francisco non-profit organization has found that kids are spending more time than ever in front of television, tablet, computer, and smartphone screens. This is despite longstanding advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that screen time be severely limited, if not avoided, before age 2.
Common Sense Media, the organization that conducted the survey of more than 1,300 parents, found that half of all children under age 8 had access to a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile media device. About half of kids under age 2 watch some television or DVDs every day, and those who do spend an average of 2 hours in front of the screen. And almost one-third of kids under 2 have televisions in their bedrooms, which is something the AAP specifically recommends against.
“It’s the beginning of an important shift, as parents increasingly are handing their iPhones to their 1 ½-year-old kid as a shut-up toy. And parents who check their e-mail three times on the way to the bus stop are constantly modeling that behavior, so it’s only natural the kids want to use mobile devices too,” James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, told The New York Times.
The study found significant differences across socioeconomic lines, with more children (64 percent) under 8 having televisions in their rooms if their family income is under $30,000. Twenty percent of kids that age have televisions in their rooms in families with incomes above $75,000.
The study also noted that only 14 percent of respondents said their pediatricians had discussed media use with them.
(image via: http://blog.smarthide.com)
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Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Television and other media exposure has no educational or developmental benefits for children under age 2, and in fact it has been associated with negative health issues including obesity, poor attention, and sleep issues. These are the main findings of a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), released this week at the group’s annual meeting in Boston.
The AAP had recommended in 1999 that parents all but ban television exposure for their babies. This report is meant to clarify and update that recommendation, urging parents to minimize media exposure because, among other reason, time spent in front of the screen is time not spent doing educational, family, or imaginative activities that babies need to develop.
Among the specific recommendations from the AAP:
- Do not place a television in your child’s bedroom.
- Refrain from watching adult-oriented television while young children are in the room. This has been shown to distract parents, even if the program is “background noise” to the child.
- If a young child is watching television, parents should monitor the programming and watch with the child whenever possible.
The recommendations also urge pediatricians to discuss media use, and encourage “media limits” before age 2, at well visits.
(image via: http://babyshrink.com/)
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