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Too Much Screen Time?

By Jack (Master List Consultant for the Gazette)

Did you know that for every hour of TV a child watches per day, their risk of becoming overweight increases by 6%, but if that child has a television in his/her room, the risk of them becoming overweight bumps up to 37%? Parents are concerned that their children are spending too much time watching a screen and not spending enough time outside. Reviews said that over 1 million kids bought the video game Halo 3 within the first two weeks of its release.

Monica Morse, an RN at Springfield Hospital and a Guilford school parent, did a project on the effects of screen time for graduate school at The University of Vermont. While she was doing the project, she realized how applicable the topic was to her life, having a child in second grade at home and a television that always seemed to be on. Ms. Morse recently did a presentation at Guilford School on the topic and based it on facts that she had found through research as well as her own job site observation. “This is a steadily growing issue in society. I am seeing kids at work who are generally obese and depressed,” Ms. Morse said in an interview. A common effect on children who watch large amounts of screens daily is obesity. A lot of parents would tell themselves, “How could the television or any kind of screen possibly make my child overweight?” The answer to their question is quite simple. Because the child is spending so much time in front of a screen, it causes them to lack exercise. Sitting there for hours and not moving around a lot causes the body to not burn fat and calories as much as it would if the child was actively playing. Children normally like eating a little snack when they are watching a screen. The problem is that if they are watching a screen for a large part of each day, snacking goes up, and they are eating snacks a lot more than they should be. This constant rate of eating mixed with their lack of exercise can cause them to become obese.

This is not just an issue with kids spending too much time looking at a television screen, but also computers. So far Nickelodeon and Disney have spent over 2 million dollars just to make their websites more appealing so that more kids will go to their site. Smaller children look up to their older siblings and love to follow in their footsteps. Many teenagers these days are all caught up in Myspace and Facebook, the smaller kids, wanting to be just like their older brother or sister, will ask for one too, but the parents often say, “No you’re too young.” Hearing about this marketing void, companies such as Webkinz, Neo Pets and Club Penguin jumped to the opportunity of making some money. Webkinz and Neo Pets both made stuffed animals that come with a tag with a code on it. You go home and type in that code online and the animal comes alive. What the companies had in mind was that, if the parents wouldn’t let their kids have a Myspace or a Facebook, why not make a website that was the same thing but a version that was for smaller children. Club Penguin is a sort of chat room but for smaller children. You log in as your penguin and you can walk around. If you find a “penguin” you can talk to them. This site was not as big a hit as the other two mentioned before because parents were concerned that predators would go on and ask for personal information. The charts show that, since December 2006, the Webkinz site has had about 2,500,000 hits.

Besides the physical effect of a sedentary “screen” lifestyle, there is an emotional effect to that lifestyle as well. “Many kids are influenced by a lot of the things that they see on television,” said Robin Rieske, a counselor at the Department of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. “When a child watches a television program on TV, they tend to reenact what they see on that program” When the television program Power Rangers came out, parents found that a lot of the kids that watched the program became more aggressive. “The aggression levels rose in kids but mostly in girls because Power Rangers was the first children’s television that had fairly aggressive female characters,” Ms. Morse said.

So if you want to decrease the obesity trend, if you want your children to be physically fit, if you want to prevent your children from seeing things that you think they shouldn’t, then consider choosing an alternative to screen time. It will keep you and your children healthy.

Tips for parents

(From Monica Morse)

*Put the television or screen somewhere where it is easy to monitor.

*Prevent putting a television in your child’s room.

*Limit screen time in your home to 1hour a day.

*Discourage television for children less than two years of age.

*Teach your child to ask permission to watch a screen.

*Support media literacy programs in schools.

 

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