“Homework? But there’s a 16 and Pregnant marathon on!” According to a new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, TV is harmful to children. Per the study ‘s findings, each additional hour of TV toddlers watch per week translates into poorer classroom behavior, lower math scores, less physical activity, and more snacking at age 10. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What has changed, and how do we change things going forward? Here to discuss are pediatrician and child obesity expert Dr. Joanna Dolgoff (author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, a book to help families counteract child obesity), Press Editor (and fitness enthusiast) Brad Pareso, and Director of New Media (and father) Michael Conforti.
Maybe I’m generalizing, but doesn’t a study saying something like this get released every month? And do we need a study to point it out?
I always think these things really boil down to parenting. If you’re the type of parent who doesn’t limit TV time, you’re probably not the kind of parent that checks homework, reads to their kids, and other things that counter mind-numbing distractions like TV and video games. In and of itself, TV isn’t bad, but it’s probably the “gateway drug” to lazy parenting.
That’s exactly how I feel. I’m sure a 23-year-old spouting about poor parenting is the last thing an adult with kids wants to hear but the simple fact is not all children are like the ones in this study. As Mike loves to boast (and he should), his son is a force to be reckoned with when playing Call of Duty, but still brings home 100s on his algebra tests and partakes in extracurricular activities. Did all kids come out of the womb with a TV remote in one hand and candy bar in the other? No, they picked them up when their parents weren’t being parents.
I understand what you both are saying but I never like to pass blame. If we are doing that, we must blame every aspect of our society—from supersized meals, busy family lives and the increase in processed foods. There are lots of reasons for the child obesity epidemic. Often, education is the key to its cure. You won’t get much enthusiasm from telling your kids to shut off the TV and go play. However, if you suggest an alternate, fun activity, you will see a difference. “Why don’t we shut off the TV and play Hide and Seek or Dance Dance Revolution?” Kids are much more likely to get off the couch when they are given an appealing option. Parents should sit with their kids, at a neutral time, and brainstorm a list of fun activities. That way, the next time you find the kids zoning out in front of the tube, you can simply look at the list and say, “Let’s try No. 8!”
All great points and precisely the reasons why I absolutely blame parents. It’s too easy to “blame society.” Parents who thoughtfully interact with their kids, as Dr. Dolgoff suggests, will invariably excel more than those who don’t, regardless of how much TV they watch. It’s just a balance. I mean, supersized meals don’t force themselves into my kid’s mouths. My wife and I decide what they eat. And we need to juggle our busy lives so we don’t neglect them. If we don’t, and we let the TV be their only source of mental and emotional stimulation, you have every right to blame us when our kids turn out dumb and lazy.
Let’s ignore the blame and move on to the solution; I find that is always much more helpful. Parents should institute a few simple rules about TV. First, no child should watch more than two hours of TV each day. Non-active video games should be included in this two-hour period. Second, children should not have a TV in their bedrooms. Studies show pre-schoolers with a TV in their bedrooms are 30 percent more likely to be obese! Putting one in a child’s bedroom adds an extra hour of TV watching each day, at a minimum. And finally, no child (or adult) should ever eat with the TV on. We eat about 25 percent more calories when watching TV, without feeling more satisfied. I mean, how many times have you sat down to a show with a bag of chips and suddenly realized the entire bag was empty? This happens to kids too!
These are all great suggestions, but why keep putting a Band-Aid on the wound if it can be sutured? Kids are kids, they do what they do because their parents allow them to. If they develop these bad habits now, not only will they settle into a life of potato chips and 10-hour World of Warcraft sessions but they will bring their kids up on a similar regimen.
I guess in the end, good habits, positive parental interaction, education and moderation sound like the right mix to help curb some of these problems.