In a study showing that television may be even worse than anyone thought for your kids, researchers have discovered that television viewing is also linked to future high blood pressure in children, regardless of whether they were overweight or not. The results were published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The study examined 111 children ages 3 to 8, who wore an accelerometer (a device that
measures movement of all kinds). As Time puts it, “When the researchers further broke down screen time by activity, TV-viewing had the strongest correlation with higher blood pressure. Kids watching from 90 to 330 minutes of television each day had systolic and diastolic blood-pressure readings (the two numbers that indicate pressure caused by blood pumping from the top and bottom chambers of the heart, respectively) that were five to seven points higher than those of children watching less than half an hour of television a day.”
Why the special badness of TV? No one knows for sure, but the theories about why television might be even worse for kids than computers or computer games or reading include:
1) Kids may be most immobile while watching TV – other kinds of activity at least involve some twitching and shifting.
2) It’s been well documented that people tend to mindlessly eat while watching TV, particularly junk food – which tends to be higher in salt, a known factor elevating many people’s blood pressure.
3) Watching TV, particularly in the hours before bedtime, has been shown in several studies to decrease the total amount of sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep has been link to both weight gain and higher blood pressures in adults.
4) Watching all those commercials for unhealthy, highly-processed foods has been shown to affect food choices – particularly in children. Time points out that experts estimate that the average child will be bombarded with 10,000 food advertisements a year while watching TV.
While no one knows for sure why watching television has these profoundly negative effects on children, one thing is sure. Time quotes: “‘These results show that TV-viewing really is the worst of all possible sedentary activities,’ says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, who was not part of the study.” He then adds, using the Understatement of the Year approach, “There is no fundamental biological need for TV-viewing in childhood.”
In other words – love your kids = switch it off.
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