Thursday, October 21, 2004

Is your child watching too much television

Is your child watching too much television

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, October 21, 2004 12:32 AM

Technology has become an integral part of our lives. Even in our developing and poor country, the moment our people have a few extra pesos, they buy a cell phone. Maids may not earn very much, but so many can be seen texting.

The Internet is limited to a relatively few, but it’s here and it has opened a whole new world for our people. So much, so soon. And the coming years will bring unimaginable new gadgets that will make life more interesting.

But for now, even the poor can count on an old standby for their pleasure. Television antennas can be seen on the roofs of even the most rundown shacks. TV is the entertainment of the poor. You cannot blame them for spending some rare pesos to give themselves a daily escape from the harsh realities of grinding poverty.

But television has its flipside, too. I remember the barangay captain of barrio Calumayin on the shore of Taal Lake where we have our rest house. He told me that when electricity was brought in a few years ago, everybody bought a television set and, believe it or not, he complained that people spent so much time watching TV that work wasn’t getting done.

Like every good thing when carried to excess, TV becomes a curse. In an August 5, 2004 article in the International Herald Tribune, Jane Brody reports that “studies have documented unhealthful effects on weight, attention span, reading skills, and socialization among children who spend hours a day watching television or playing video games.”

Brody says that long term studies have shown that child obesity is somewhat related to excessive TV viewing. “… a child glued to the tube is sitting still, using the fewest calories of any activity except sleeping. Such children get less exercise than those who watch less television, and they see more commercials for unhealthful foods and beverages. They also have more opportunity to consume such food than do children who are out playing. It is no surprise, then, that the percentage of children who are seriously overweight is rising.

“TV reduction appears to be the most effective measure in reducing weight gain,” said Dr. William Dietz of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Aside from this, kids who watch too much TV have other problems. “Studies have found that children who watch 10 or more hours of television a week have lower reading scores and perform less well academically than comparable youngsters who spend less time watching television. Studies of brain function show evidence of direct harm to the brains of young children who watch television for two or more hours a day.“Watching television fosters development of brain circuits, or ‘habits of the mind,’ that result in increased aggressiveness, lower tolerance levels and decreased attention span, in lieu of developing language circuits in the brain’s left hemisphere.”

Another study found that “children aged 10-15 who watched five or more hours of TV a day were SIX times as likely to start smoking as those who watched less than two hours a day.”

These findings did not surprise me, but they should be a wake-up call for us parents who allow our kids to watch as much TV as they like. Perhaps more supervision and less time in front of the idiot box will be more beneficial than we ever thought.


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