Children’s weight related to media use

Did you know that media use has been linked to being overweight and obese? In the U.S., children between 8-and 18-years old spend an average of 44.5 hours a week using media and only 8.75 hours a week exercising. Children who spend too much time using media tend to be overweight. In fact, research shows that a preschooler’s risk of becoming obese increases 6% for every hour of T.V. watched per day.

Obesity is a major health concern and an epidemic for our nation, including our nation’s children of all ages. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2008 among adults and increased from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008 among children and adolescents.
Too much media use can increase body weight and reduce:

  • physical activity
  • reading
  • doing homework
  • playing with friends
  • spending time with family
  • metabolic rates

Parents must set rules and limit their child’s access to media and encourage healthy alternatives to media use, especially exercise.

Scientists have found that reducing the amount of time preschoolers watch television lowers their body weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • Absolutely no screen time for children under the age of three years
  • No more than 1 hour of total screen time for children ages 3-12 years per day

All children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate or intense aerobic physical activity each day. There are many alternatives to media use that parents can recommend to their children, such as:

  • Riding a bike
  • Playing outside
  • Going to the library
  • Attending a sporting or musical event
  • Playing with a friend
  • Walking a dog
  • Practicing a musical instrument
  • Playing a board game
  • Reading a book
  • Drawing
  • Swimming
  • Going for a walk
  • Participating in organized activities such as baseball, tennis, dance, and swimming, and
  • Cooking family meals together

For more information about preventing obesity, visit http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, or bullying via technology and/or the internet, has become the newest way to make fun of, ridicule, and victimize others. In a 2010 study of 12 to 18 year olds, researchers found that 83% of teens use a cell phone, 78% send text messages, 50% use Facebook, 38% use Myspace, 46% email, and 41% instant message. With this wide variety of technology being used by today’s youth, it’s no wonder that bullying has found its way from the playground to cell phones and computers.

It’s no secret that physical bullying is more common among boys, while relational bullying (bullying with words) is more common among girls. Given this fact, it might not be surprising to you that cyberbullying is most common among girls, although it happens to both girls and boys. Over 20% of teens report having experienced cyberbullying. The most common forms are hurtful comments, rumors, or threats online. Other forms include text messages, pictures, videos, or websites created about the victim. If not dealt with and solved, cyberbullying can have serious negative consequences for children. As a parent, it’s important to know how to handle such a situation.

To help your child stay safe from cyberbullying, here are some helpful tips:
• Keep your home computer in a location where it can be easily viewed. If your children know that you can see what they’re doing, they are more likely to use the computer for appropriate behaviors only.
• Become familiar with social networking and communication technologies. If your child tells you that he’s doing homework, but he’s actually instant messaging, would you know the difference? In order to keep your children safe, you have to know a little about these technologies: know what they look like, know what they’re used for, and know the lingo.
• Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Consider installing filters or blockers to keep your child from visiting dangerous chat rooms or from using the Internet in other harmful ways.
• Set guidelines for cell phone use, then enforce and monitor these expectations.
• Set guidelines for computer and internet use, along with specific consequences if these guidelines are not met.
• Have a plan of how you will handle the situation if your child is being cyberbullied. Stay calm and take steps toward finding a solution.
• Inform school administrators right away. Inquire about bullying preemption programs.
• Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Save the messages, pictures, or videos.
• Spend time with your child to let him/her know how much you love and support him/her.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Screen Time and Attention Difficulties

Researchers in Psychology at Iowa State University recently completed a study involving school-age and college-age participants in Iowa.

Their goal: To determine how the amount of screen time affects children’s attention skills in school.

As mentioned earlier in this blog, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time each day for middle and high school children, and even less for younger children. The ISU study found that the average television and video gaming time was 4.26 hours per day. This is well above the recommended amount, but still below the national average.

When observing the classroom behaviors of these children, the researchers found that children who exceeded the recommended two hours of screen time per day were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems. Although many other factors contribute to attention difficulties, the investigators of this study feel that screen time may be a contributing factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Although they don’t know exactly why increased screen time is associated with increased attention problems, researchers speculate that it could be due to the fast-paced, attention grabbing effects of television shows. Today, television shows change screens every one to two seconds, and include many more lights, camera and sound changes, and special effects than in the past. Children who get used to this action packed, attention-grabbing entertainment may have more difficulty concentrating in a classroom that doesn’t have all these special effects.

So, what can you do to limit your child’s tv time?  Click here to find out more.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Video Gaming

To game or not to game … that is the question! With high definition graphics, multiple levels and players, and even bouts against other users via the internet, video gaming has reached a new technological level. These graphics are appealing to children, but researchers and parents often want to know about the potential negative effects of video gaming.

While video games have some positive effects on children (fine motor skills, mouse/keyboard abilities, and visual attention skills), they have been shown to increase aggression in children, both in the short and long term. Even playing a hostile video game just once increases a child’s likelihood of being aggressive towards others in the near future. Continued exposure to hostile video games has the long term effect of making children more aggressive over time. In fact, regular exposure to violent video games increases a child’s likelihood of getting into a fight by two to four times! On top of this, spending too much time playing video games has been linked to decreases in school performance.

To avoid the negative effects of video games, parents need to pay attention to both the content of video games, as well as the amount of time children are playing the video games. Video game ratings serve as a good starting point for gauging whether or not a video is appropriate for your child, but don’t stop there. Parents also need to look at the content of the game. If the game involves aggression or harm toward others, this game is not appropriate for children and will likely cause increased aggression (even if the game involves cartoon characters).

When it comes to the amount of video game playing time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for recommended total screen time each day. This includes video games, television, and computer usage:

  • Under 3 years old = NO screen time
  • Elementary aged children = 1 hour per day
  • Middle and high school children = 2 hours per day

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Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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