Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Though certain lifestyle habits, including watching television and eating school lunches, are linked with childhood obesity, sixth grade girls and boys also face some gender-specific risk factors. Reuters reports:
Involvement in sports, for example, was tied to a lower risk of obesity in boys but not girls and drinking milk was linked to lowered risk among girls but not boys, according to researchers from the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, write in the journal Pediatrics that understanding obesity risk factors for specific genders may help target programs aimed at weight loss or preventing weight gain in children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 17 percent of children and teens are obese.
For the new study, Jackson and her colleagues used data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 1,714 sixth-grade students at 20 middle schools in and around Ann Arbor.
Overall, about 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls were obese, which is defined as children who are in the top-fifth percentile of body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height.
Among boys who were not obese, about 56 percent participated in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity at least five times per week, compared to about 43 percent of boys who were obese.
But there was no difference between the percentage of obese and non-obese girls who reported regular vigorous physical activity.
Playing on at least one sports team was also linked to decreased risk of obesity for boys but not girls.
The lack of an association between obesity and physical activity in girls may be explained by girls not reporting some activities like cheerleading or dance, because children may not consider those activities sports, the researchers write.
They did find, however, that drinking two or more servings of milk per day was tied to about a 20 percent decreased risk of obesity among girls but not boys. One possible explanation is that milk is displacing sugary drinks in the girls’ diets, Jackson’s team writes.
Image: Overweight girl, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 12th, 2013
Toddlers who watch an extra hour of television daily–”extra” meaning an hour more than the two-hour maximum for children two or older recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics–may suffer consequences when they enter kindergarten. The effects of the extra TV time, according to a new study by researchers by the University of Montreal, include diminished vocabulary and math skills, attention and concentration issues, physical prowess, and likelihood of victimization or bullying by classmates. ScienceDaily.com has more:
“This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates,” [Professor Linda] Pagani said. “These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence.”
Pagani conducted the study to discover the effect of television viewing prior to kindergarten. He said, “Much of the research on school readiness has focused on how kindergarten characteristics predict later success. Kindergarten entry characteristics predict long-term psycho-social adjustment and economic characteristics like income and academic attainment. Being innovative, my focus has been to examine what predicts kindergarten entry characteristics. Adding further originality, I also wanted to focus on neglected yet crucial aspects of school readiness such as motor skills, which predict later physical activity and reading skills, likelihood of being “picked-on,” which predict social difficulties, and skills at linked to doing what you are supposed to be doing when having been given instructions, which are in turn linked to attention systems that are regulated by the brain’s frontal lobe development.”
991 girls and 1006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing behaviour as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.
Pagani noted that the standard deviation is a commonly used statistic tool that tells us what is within a normal range compared to the average. One standard deviation from the average daily amount of television viewed by the toddlers in this sample (105 minutes) is 72 minutes. Some of the children who participated in the study were two or even three standard deviations away from the average, and their kindergarten indicators were correspondingly worse than those who were one standard deviation away.
This study only looks at the most common form of screen time, which is in the home. However, it may be an underestimate because many child care settings use television as an activity during care giving.
Image: Boys watching TV, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Falling television sets–usually older models that are moved to other rooms when the family upgrades its main TV–are injuring a growing number of kids when the TVs fall. Every 45 minutes, according to a new, longitudinal study conducted by the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, a child arrives at the emergency room with a TV related injury. More from Reuters:
More than half of the injuries were caused by falling TVs, another 38 percent were caused by children running into the units and about 9 percent were caused by other situations, including televisions being moved from one location to another.
The majority of the injuries were to boys and about 64 percent of the injuries were to children less than five years old. Two-year olds were the age group most likely to be hurt. There were six deaths.
The head and neck area was the most common site of injury, and cuts, bruises and concussions the most common types of injury.
The overall rate of TV-related injuries held steady at about 17,000 per year over the 22-year period.
The percentage of injuries related to “striking” TVs fell dramatically over time, however, while the rate of injuries caused by falling TVs doubled from about 1 per 10,000 children in 1990 to about 2 per 10,000 children in 2011.
Image: Television and family, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
Parents who are concerned that their children watch too much television often try different approaches to solve the problem, from removing televisions from bedrooms and living areas to setting strict time limits on viewing. But the best predictor of whether kids will have healthy TV viewing habits, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, is whether parents have good habits themselves. More from Time.com:
According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, what’s most important in children’s viewing habits is how much TV (or DVDs or online entertainment) parents watch. The researchers interviewed 1550 parents with children 17 or younger about both their own and their children’s screen time, and when possible, they also asked the adolescents about how much television they watched.
The amount of TV the parents watched predicted the kids’ screen time, and this association was even stronger than that linked to parental restrictions on TV viewing, where the TVs were placed in the home, or how much television parents and children watched together.
On average, parents spent about four hours a day in front of a screen, and those who watched more media had kids who watched more. In fact, every hour that parents viewed TV was linked to nearly an additional half hour of screen time for their kids. There were some differences according to age, however. Restrictions on viewing had some effect for kids aged six to 11, and adolescents reported watching an hour more a day than their parents estimated.
For over a decade, pediatricians have been recommending less screen time for kids (a maximum of 2 hours a day for non-educational TV) because heavy viewing is linked to obesity, inactivity, poor sleep, and poor academic achievement. “Lots of parents are concerned about how much TV their kids watch,” says Amy Bleakley, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania. “We wanted to raise awareness of how their own media habits may be affecting that of their kids.”
Image: Child watching TV, via Shutterstock
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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
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