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Friday, April 27, 2007

Turn off TV to Improve Children's Health

For parents, National TV-Turnoff Week (April 23-29) isn't just about spending less time in front of the tube. It's about making a change to improve their children's health for life. That's the view of, a personalized health Web site.

Too much TV--and other screen time with computers, video games and movies--has been linked to adult obesity, poor body image and high cholesterol. Scientific studies reveal that limiting screen time in childhood increases the probability that a child will grow into an adult with a healthy BMI.

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD, parenting expert and author of Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children, cites further studies revealing that, "kids who eat in front of the TV tend to consume fewer fruits and veggies, more snack foods and soda and ultimately, more calories. What's more, the average child watches 20,000 TV commercials per year, most commonly for sugar-laden cereals, candies and sodas as well as fat-packed snack foods--inevitably influencing their choices."

Turning off the TV is optimal, but when that's just not doable, Trachtenberg's rule of thumb is that kids should not have more than two hours of "screen time" including TV, computer, video games and movies per day. She also advocates that kids need one hour of heart-pumping activity each dayto elevate their pulse (i.e., not simply standing in left field).

Trachtenberg offers some tips for regulating TV time:

  • Plan ahead: Choose programs together with your child then turn off the TV before the next show begins. Similarly, choose one DVD or one video game with an agreed-upon time limit.
  • Watch together: Help your child understand what he or she sees and hears, including ads and music lyrics.
  • Hide the remote: It's harder to mindlessly channel surf without one.
  • Minimize sets: Allow one or two TVs in the house, never in a child's room or near eating areas.

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