"Watching too much TV is bad for your child's health" - we're sure you've heard this piece of advice plenty of times. Even though many children’s education advocates propagate the idea of children viewing more educational programmes, some believe that zero TV viewing is the best solution for optimal child health. Today, we find out how and why watching too much TV is bad for your child's health and what are the best practices to limit its use.
First of all, let us find out if you are a TV addict. It is generally observed that if parents watch too much TV, the children will too. Thus, it is best to cut down on your TV time, if you find yourself doing any of the following:
- Channel surfing a lot with no particular viewing agenda.
- You switch on the TV first thing as you wake up in the morning, and leave it on throughout the day even when you are not watching it.
- You have no interest in TV, but you watch it literally out of a habit.
- You tend to cut short on important social events, only to watch your favourite programmes.
Now, let's look at the deep-rooted health effects of TV on children. Too much of TV viewing time is linked to:
- Obesity. It is generally observed that children who watch more than two hours of TV in a day are more likely to be overweight. While describing the relationship between television watching and childhood obesity, Drs. R.M. Viner and T.J. Cole from the University College London assessed data from 8,158 participants of the 1970 Birth Cohort. Height, weight, and frequency of television watching were assessed at ages 5, 10, and 30 years. The researchers found that each additional hour of weekend TV watching by five-year-old children over the suggested two hours, increased the risk of obesity in 30 year olds by 7%. [Via].
In another study conducted by Division of General Pediatrics and Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, investigators hypothesized that television viewing causes obesity by one or more of three mechanisms: (1) displacement of physical activity, (2) increased calorie consumption while watching or caused by the effects of advertising, and (3) reduced resting metabolism. [Via]
- Irregular sleep. If a child watches more than 2 hours of TV in a day, especially at night, he or she is more likely to suffer from irregular sleep patterns, troubles in going to sleep accompanied by unexplainable dreams and nightmares.
- Behavioural problems. Emotional, social and attention problems are more likely to be seen in children who watch a lot of TV.
- Apart from this, excessive TV viewing is also linked to violence, impaired academic performance and less time for play.
Recommended viewing time for children. Children under two should not be allowed to watch any TV, experts say.
Older children should watch no more than two hours a day, the researchers at the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Centre in Seattle said. Their research in the Pediatrics journal showed that each hour in front of the TV increased a child's chances of attention deficit disorder by 10%. [Via]
Dr Dimitri Christakis, who led the study said, "TV can cause the developing mind to experience unnatural levels of stimulation. In fact you might say there's no safe level since there's a small but increased risk with each hour."
A few tips to limit screen time.
- First of all, make sure your child's bedroom doesn't have a television. Children who watch TV in their bedroom tend to watch more TV, and suffer poor grades in school tests too.
- If no one is watching, make sure the TV is never on in the background. Always remember, there is an ‘off’ button for a reason!
- Never allow unsupervised access the the TV. Children are prone to watching violent and sexual imagery and this must be kept in check.
- TV dinners should never be encouraged. When you eat while watching TV, you tend to overeat without keeping a tab on how full you are.
- When children routinely eat meals in front of the TV, they are more likely to become overweight. The odd bit of popcorn during a movie is OK, but in general don’t let your family eat meals in front of the TV.
- It is a must to set school day rules. Children tend to have limited free time during the school week, thus it is important to use video games and TV as rewards for finishing homework and chores and not as a leisure activity.
- Suggest different activities to your kids, like reading, playing a sport or trying a new board game, rather than increasing your child’s screen time for entertainment.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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