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Electronic Babysitter Cuts Kids Computer, TV Time

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 10:15 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Overweight Kids, Heart Attack, Medical Devices

Kids who had their tv and computer time limited with the use of a device, lost weight

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You might not think we need a university study to determine that eating more and watching less television will make you fat. But results from a new study by researchers at the University at Buffalo are being called “spectacular”. 

It shows that kids whose time in front of a screen was limited showed significant weight loss.

Researchers used a device called TV Allowance to cut down on screen time. The State University of New York encourages parents to block access to television and computers to help overweight children eat less.

“Television viewing is related to consumption of fast food and foods and beverages that are advertised on television. Viewing cartoons with embedded food commercials can increase choice of the advertised item in preschoolers, and television commercials may prompt eating,” the study authors said in a prepared statement.

Among the group of 70 kids studied were children between ages four and seven who spent about 14 hours a week in front of screens. They were children with a high body mass index (BMI) at or above the 75th BMI (body mass index) percentile, that is they were overweight.

These kids were followed for two years but half were allowed to continue the 14 hour a week habit while the other half had their screen time cut in half.  Researchers monitored this with a device called a TV Allowance, made by Mindmaster Inc. that makes a TV or computer inoperable when time’s up.

Not surprisingly the kids with the old habits continued to be overweight for the most part. 18 percent did lose weight. But of the kids who spent less time in front of screen 30 percent were no longer overweight.  The weight loss may be partially due to the cutback of 100 calories a day across the board. That’s equal to one soda.

TV Allowance would like to market itself as a device to help parents when they can’t be home to monitor their kids viewing habits. Created in 1991, Randal Levenson, the inventor says thousands have been sold each year. Some studies show children spend half of their awake time in front of the television or computer

“Using technology to modify television viewing eliminates parental vigilance needed to enforce family rules and reduces the disciplinary action needed if a child exceeds his or her sedentary behavior limits. Perhaps most important, the device puts the choice of when to watch television in the child's control, as opposed to a rule such as ‘no television time until homework is completed,’” the researchers concluded.

In the U.S. about 16 percent of 6 to 19 year olds are overweight and that represents nearly a 50 percent increase in just one decade.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issues this guideline- children ages two and up should have no more than two hours of television or computer screen time per day.  Children under the age of two should have none.

Look for this study in the March edition of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It was funded by a grant from the National Institutes and Digestive Diseases and by the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory of the State University of New York at Buffalo.   #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by rain
Wednesday, March 05, 2008 2:44 PM EST

A TV in the bedroom is irresponsible. However i still find this very controversy amusing, albeit polarizing. I must say that this TV media thing isn't so black and white as it purports to be. A handful of researchers and parents think TV is all bad...it isn't. They just don't know how to use it. The imagination exercised while watching TV is certainly different than reading books and both can be used to engage children esp. young ones if the content is smart and the parents know how to do it. Most parents don't. TV causes obesity? Well then so does reading...but hey I'd rather have a fat reader then a fat Hannan Montana watcher. TV causes diabetes? ...hey I'd rather have a fat diebetic reader then a fat diebetic Hannan Montana watcher. It should be very interesting to see when these crack researchers stop looking at TV and start researching the harmful effects of reading... esp when it comes in digital form, then we'll all be really screwed. Have the TV researchers ever thought about researching new ways to engage children through media...since no one in actually going to get rid of their TVs ever!

Comments for this article are closed.

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