Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Kids who get a large amount of screen time–that is, time in front of television, video game, tablet, or other portable electronic devices–may be more likely to report poorer levels of overall well-being, and higher levels of family dysfunction than kids who get less screen time, according to a new study conducted by Australian researchers. Reuters reports:
Based on data for more than 3600 children in eight European countries, researchers found that family functioning and emotional wellbeing were especially linked to changes in the amount of time kids spent in front of screens.
The study’s lead author said they can’t say what factors may be behind the associations. “We really need to do a little bit more digging in this area before we can answer some of the basic questions,” Trina Hinkley told Reuters Health.
Hinkley is a research fellow at the Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University in Melbourne….
….For the new study, researchers from the Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Consortium analyzed data on kids who were between two and six years of age when they entered the study between September 2007 and June 2008.
At that time, the parents completed questionnaires about their children’s media use and wellbeing – including the child’s emotional and peer problems, self-esteem and family and social functioning. Parents answered another questionnaire two years later.
Overall, the researchers found that for social and peer-related measures, screen time had no effect. But for each additional hour or so of screen time parents reported, a child’s risk of emotional and family problems rose up to two-fold.
“We found that family functioning and emotional problems did seem to have some association with electronic media, but the others didn’t show any association at all,” Hinkley said.
Linda Pagani, who was not involved in the new study but has researched screen time among children, cautioned that there may be other explanations behind some of the results. “It could be that families who used screen time more were families who weren’t functioning that well to begin with,” she said.
Recent research has also linked screen time with childhood weight gain, and suggested that screen usage during meals may have negative effects on family relationships.
Image: Girl in front of a laptop, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
The Disney Channel has introduced a lesbian couple who are parents to a child named Taylor on the show “Good Luck Charlie,” featuring same-sex parents for the first time on the network. More from Jezebel.com:
“This particular storyline was developed under the consultancy of child development experts and community advisors,” a Disney Channel spokesperson [said in June, when the decision was first announced]. “Like all Disney Channel programming, it was developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness.”
The conservative parenting organization One Million Moms has posted a statement disagreeing with Disney’s decision, stating in part:
Disney should stick to entertaining instead of pushing an agenda. Disney decided to be politically correct versus providing family-friendly programming. Disney has a choice whether to produce a program with certain fictional characters; the storyline could be re-written or changed. Conservative families need to urge Disney to exclude confusing topics that children are far too young to comprehend.
Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus, who got her start in show business on the hit Disney Channel show “Hannah Montana,” posted a tweet congratulating Disney for its decision: “I commend Disney for making this step into the light of this generation,” she said.
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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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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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Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
The amount of television that children watch each day has been well studied, but a new study is looking at the effects indirect exposure to televisions that are on in the backgr0und at home and in other settings. From CNN.com:
According to a nationwide study, a much bigger proportion of kids’ TV exposure comes indirectly, from television that’s on in the background while they’re doing other activities.
The average child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years absorbs nearly four hours of this so-called background or “secondhand” TV each day, the study found. And this indirect exposure, by detracting from play, homework, and family time, may have possible consequences for kids’ well-being.
This is the first study to quantify background television in children, and the high number is “surprising,” says lead author Matthew Lapierre, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“From a research perspective, I would be very concerned,” Lapierre says. “I think (background TV) is something that researchers need to spend more attention to, to understand and unpack.”
Image: Baby watching television, via Shutterstock
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