Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that children who watch quality, educational programs on television are better-behaved than those kids who watch television of varying moral and educational value. The new research will be welcome news to parents who struggle to minimize their kids’ screen time despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups. More from Time.com:
“There is no question kids watch too much television at all ages,” says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, lead author and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development
at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Part of the message is not just about turning off the television but about changing the channel.”
Kids are sponges who absorb their surroundings; it’s how they learn to develop the proper behaviors and responses to social situations. And they are not only parroting their parents and other family members, but mimicking behaviors they see on television or in movies as well. So Christakis, who has conducted extensive research on the effects of screen time on child development, explored ways to influence what shows children watch so that they’re more apt to imitate quality conduct. “We’ve known for decades that kids imitate what they see on TV,” he says. “They imitate good behaviors and they imitate bad behaviors.”
In the study, he and his colleagues tracked 617 families with kids between the ages of 3 and 5. Half of the families agreed to go on a media “diet” and swap programming with more aggressive and violent content for educational, prosocial shows that encourage sharing, kindness and respect, like Dora the Explorer, which teaches how to resolve conflicts, and Sesame Street, which models tolerance for diversity. The other families did not change their children’s viewing choices.
To help parents in the first group to choose appropriate shows, they received a program guide that highlighted prosocial content and learned how to block out violent programming. (The parents were so delighted with the guidance that many asked to continue receiving program guides even after the study ended.) They were also urged to watch alongside their kids. The researchers tracked what the children watched and also measured their behavior with standard tests of aggressiveness and sharing responses six months and a year into the study.
At both testing periods, the children in the first group watched less aggressive programming than they did at the beginning of the study compared with children in the control group. Both groups of kids upped their screen time a bit, but the first group saw more quality programs while the control group spent even more time watching violent shows.
Six months after the study began, the children who increased their prosocial viewing acted less aggressively and showed more sharing and respectful behaviors compared with the control group. They were more apt to compromise and cooperate than children who didn’t change their viewing content, and the effects persisted for the entire year that the study lasted. “There is a connection between what children watch, not just in terms of violence but in terms of improved behavior,” says Christakis, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.
Who got the biggest boost in behavior? Low-income boys. “They derived the greatest benefit, which is interesting because they are most at risk of being victims and perpetrators of aggression,” he says.
Image: Child watching TV, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Parents who offer their children complementary and alternative medical therapies including acupuncture, herbal supplements, and chiropractic care, are not necessarily forthcoming about those practices with their pediatricians, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Sharing more information with pediatricians would, however, benefit children, parents, and doctors alike, as CNN reports:
The most commonly used CAM therapies included massage, faith healing, chiropractic and aromatherapy, while the most popular products to treat conditions ranging from cancer to asthma and inflammatory bowel disease were vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies and homeopathic medicines.
“Whether we’re looking at the general population or at children’s hospitals, it seems that complementary medicine use is extremely common,” says Dr. Sunita Vohra, lead author of the study and a pediatrician who is chair of the section on integrated medicine for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the United States, a recent survey found that one in nine children had used alternative therapies to treat a health condition.
Vohra says parents’ own beliefs about and reliance on CAM therapies is a major factor behind its use in children, as is parents’ desire to provide their children with every possible health option.
“For most parents, their number one priority is the health of their children so they’re interested in exploring all options to promote their children’s health,” says Vohra. “Many parents consider all products that are available and seek out not only conventional health care but also complementary health care.”
With CAM being used by so many children, however, she and her colleagues say it’s time for pediatricians to do a better job of discussing the safety and efficacy of the therapies with parents.
“Given the rates of use, we would like to encourage all health care providers to ask about complementary therapies and we encourage all parents to tell,” says Vohra. “In many cases, it’s not discussed because parents think doctors won’t support them, but it’s far better to have an open discussion.”
Such discussions can avoid potentially harmful interactions between conventional medicines and herbal remedies, for example, or other incompatibilities that can worsen, rather than improve, symptoms. In the study, parents reported 80 adverse effects, most of which were described as minor.
Most parents, says Vohra, will deny that their children are taking alternative therapies, even if they are — and not because they want to intentionally deceive their doctors.
“They don’t think of herbs as medicine,” says Vohra. “So doctors should ask parents, ‘What are all the therapies, including complementary medicines, that your child is taking?’”
Image: Acupuncture, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Three-quarters of all pediatrics tuberculosis patients in the United States have at least one parent who was born outside the country or has lived outside the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The findings suggest that sources of potential TB exposure are not being thoroughly explored by pediatricians, and researchers urge doctors to ask about any potential elevated risk factors.
The study found that among US-born pediatric patients, 66 percent had at least one foreign-born parent, which is more than three times the proportion in the general population. Mexico was the most common country the foreign-born parent was from.
Only 25 percent of pediatric patients with TB diagnosed in the United States had no known international connection through family or residence history.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
A growing number of boys are becoming obsessed with something that has long been a reality for tween and teenaged girls–body image. But instead of wanting to be lean and thin, these boys are after bulked-up, muscle-bound bodies, and they are going to great lengths to get them. From The New York Times:
“Pediatricians are starting to sound alarm bells about boys who take unhealthy measures to try to achieve Charles Atlas bodies that only genetics can truly confer. Whether it is long hours in the gym, allowances blown on expensive supplements or even risky experiments with illegal steroids, the price American boys are willing to pay for the perfect body appears to be on the rise.
In a study to be published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, more than 40 percent of boys in middle school and high school said they regularly exercised with the goal of increasing muscle mass. Thirty-eight percent said they used protein supplements, and nearly 6 percent said they had experimented with steroids.
Over all, 90 percent of the 2,800 boys in the survey — who lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but typify what doctors say is a national phenomenon — said they exercised at least occasionally to add muscle.
“There has been a striking change in attitudes toward male body image in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Harrison Pope, a psychiatry professor at Harvard who studies bodybuilding culture and was not involved in the study. The portrayal of men as fat-free and chiseled “is dramatically more prevalent in society then it was a generation ago,” he said.”
Image: Teenager lifting weights, via Shutterstock
Categories: Child Health, Must Read, Trends | Tags: body building, body image, boys, fitness, Pediatrics, steroids, supplements, weight lifting, working out
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often have to contend with a frightening and difficult aspect of the disorders–wandering or “elopement,” in which children stray from safe spaces to pursue objects of interest, often at risk to their physical safety. From The New York Times:
The behavior, called wandering or elopement, has led to numerous deaths in autistic children by drowning and in traffic accidents. Now a new study of more than 1,200 families with autistic children suggests wandering is alarmingly common. Nearly half of parents with an autistic child age 4 or older said their children had tried to leave a safe place at least once, the study reported. One in four said their children had disappeared long enough to cause concern. Many parents said their wandering children had narrowly escaped traffic accidents or had been in danger of drowning.
Those at greatest risk of wandering off were autistic children with severe intellectual deficits and those who do not respond to their names. The research was published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“I knew this was a problem, but I didn’t know just how significant a problem it was until I really began to look into it,” said Dr. Paul A. Law, senior author of the study and director of the Interactive Autism Network, a registry that is a project of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. “This is probably one of the leading causes of death and morbidity for kids with autism.”
Advocates for families affected by autism say the findings underscore the need to raise public awareness and alter policy. While Amber alerts are used to mobilize the public when a child is believed to have been abducted, for instance, generally they are not used when a disabled child goes missing, said Alison Singer, president and a founder of the Autism Science Foundation, one of the organizations that supported the study.
Image: Child crossing street, via Shutterstock