NEWARK—According to a study in the April 2010 issue of Pediatrics, children and adolescents spend more time with media than they do in any other activity except for sleeping. The vast majority of young people were found to have access to a bedroom television, computer, the Internet, a video-game console and a cell phone.
This recent study on the effects of media on the health and well-being of children and adolescents found that media can influence children’s beliefs and behaviors in terms of violence and aggression, sex, substance abuse, obesity and eating disorders.
“Children ages 8-18 consume more than 7 hours of media a day,” says Nwando Anyaoku, MD, Director, Pediatric Health Center at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Such heavy consumption can negatively affect a child’s ability to complete homework, to read for entertainment, to engage in outdoor exercise, and even to establish social connections.”
Heavy television viewing has been linked with attention-deficit disorder and diminished academic performance, as well as hypertension, asthma, sleep disorders, mood disorders, psychological distress and depression.
Study authors stated the following: “The challenge to adults is to protect children from spending too much time with media at the expense of human interactions; and from being overexposed to material that cannot be adequately processed or understood.”
Suggestions for Parents from The Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey:
· Take an inventory of how your child spends her free time on a typical day and weekend. Include all forms of media — computer, TV, video games — as well as other activities, such as reading books, playing outside, doing craft projects, playing organized sports, and so on.
· Keep your TV and computer in a central part of the house, within your range of vision. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents keep television sets out of children’s bedrooms.
· Set limits on the amount of the time that children are online or hooked up to a form of media. Parents should establish house rules of your individual family.
· Provide exciting non-tech options. Organize family outings. Make exercise a part of your family’s routine. Cook a family meal together. Be creative.
· Institute a “no media” meal time. Have all family members refrain from texting, watching television or any other distraction during meals. Parents who limit their own media are teaching a valuable lesson to children and teens.
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