Parents, monitor your kids’ media

Children Watch Television At Home
Photo Illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Children who are allowed to spend a lot of time watching TV and playing video games are more likely to gain weight, do poorly in school and get less sleep than they need. The power to prevent those problems may lie in their parents’ willingness to limit their kids’ use of electronic media.

Those were the findings of a study published in March in JAMA Pediatrics by a group of researchers, including Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., program director/ chair of DMU’s public health program. They collected data over seven months from 1,323 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students, their parents and schools in two communities in Iowa and Minnesota, measuring body mass index, average weekly sleep, school performance, and social and aggressive behavior.

The researchers also assessed students’ time spent viewing TV, playing video games and using a computer; exposure to media violence; and whether and how parents set limits on the students’ onscreen time or content.

Their conclusion: Parental involvement in children’s media use has immediate and long-term effects on a wide range of children’s physical, social and academic health outcomes.

“It’s a fairly small effect, but what’s interesting about this study is because we tracked these children over time, we see these effects build,” lead author Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, told Reuters Health.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children two years and older consume no more than one to two hours of total screen time per day. However, two Kaiser Family Foundation studies show that children spend an average of 40 hours per week with electronic media, more time than they spend in any other single activity except sleep.

Other authors of the study were Amy Nathanson, Ph.D., Ohio State University; David Walsh, Ph.D., Mind Positive Parenting; and Joey Eisenmann, Ph.D., Michigan State University.

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