Screening the Screen

Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959
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Twin studies today are a wake-up call for parents to log-off and un-plug their homes. Studies show that screen time is a toxic substance to your kids’ health – whether it’s TV, computer/internet or games. And the bad outcomes are dose-dependent, meaning that the more screen time your kids get, the more they suffer for it, healthwise. Check out this list of Bad News Screen (scream?) Time Outcomes. As you read them, think about how much you’d like your kids to never have to suffer from them:

1) obesity, 2) smoking, 3) addiction to drugs/alcohol, 4) poorer school performance, 5) earlier sexual activity. And, of course, 6) pregnancy.

Sheesh. What’s not on the list? One problems with these studies, however, is the “horse-is-already-out-of-the-barn” phenomenon. A majority of babies are already watching 8 hours of television a week. Because this now our “normal” as a society, it can be hard for lots of us to believe these number apply to our homes. Surely they’re talking about someone else, right? If you too have that reaction, keep a screen-time log of all electronic exposure for each kid for one week. Like me, you may be shocked at how it adds up. The final, circular problem is that most of us already get our news from some form of screen time (and how much press can this kind of result get? – not much, I’m betting).

Are you feeling hopeless or overwhelmed? Well there is also great news, to help motiviate us all to fold down the laptap, stand up, and face a snarky pre-teen – here’s a good study showing that exercise helps sedentary overweight kids with their anger. What’s been known for a long time is that overweight kids suffer from bullying more often. In this study, overweight kids aged 7-11 who began exercising in after-school programs felt and expressed less anger. “Getting attention from the program staff, being punished for behaving aggressively while participating in the program, and even spending less time watching violent shows on TV could all have been factors in why the children in the exercise group showed reductions in anger expression, the researchers say.” The lead author also points out that exercise has been shown to reduce hostility in adults and improve mood. In these kids, conspicuously, “the more a child’s fitness increased, the greater his or her reduction in anger expression,” which may indicate an improved sense of achievement/self-worth. Giving your kids peace and health? What could be a greater gift? We could discuss it (and sorry to cut things short), but I like my readers, so it’s time for us to unplug…

Leave a pithy comment, then head outside for a leaf-picking walk!

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