03 April 2007

Children & Television: What the Research Says

Some interesting information (particularly for parents) from a review article in the latest issue of Contemporary Pediatrics:

Television and aggressive behavior

...the evidence that televised violence increases real-life aggression is as compelling as the evidence that tobacco use causes lung cancer. A meta-analysis performed on hundreds of studies, observational and experimental, revealed a clear and consistent relationship between screen violence and actual aggression.

Exposure to violence on screen affects children in three ways that can ultimately lead to aggression:
  • It can desensitize children to violence through repeated exposure
  • It can induce children to behave more aggressively by conveying the message that aggression is acceptable or even desirable
  • It can teach children to see the world as a fearful place, and to initiate aggression as a way of protecting themselves from perceived threats

Television and obesity

The evidence that reducing television viewing reduces children's excessive weight gain is compelling. Countless cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, as well as an experimental one in school-age children, support that there is a causal relationship between TV viewing and weight gain.

Here the authors find something interesting. They identify three leading explanations for the relationship, but note that only one is supported by scientific evidence:

  • Regular TV makes children more sedentary
  • Regular TV decreases metabolism
  • Regular TV is associated with increased caloric intake

The first explanation is popular, but the association is weak. The authors point out that reading is also a sedentary activity and it has never been implicated in childhood obesity. The key factor in sedentary behavior is probably not time spent watching TV but time spent indoors in general.

The second explanation lacks evidence, probably for the same reason as the first.

It is the third explanation which turns out to be supported by the research:

Here the evidence is strong and growing. Weicha and colleagues found that children consume an excess of 167 calories per hour of TV watched per day. The excess calories consumed were entirely accounted for by foods commonly advertised on television.


ohdave said...

Interesting stuff, Westender.

ohdave said...

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