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TV Time May Not Be Benign
Date:4/3/2009

ata from 173 studies on children and media and found that media exposure can contribute to childhood obesity, tobacco use, drug use, alcohol use, poor school achievement, sexual behavior and attention problems.

Problems from media exposure can start at a young age. Johns Hopkins researchers found that by the time a child is 5½, those who've regularly watched more than two hours of TV daily are much more likely to exhibit behavior problems. In fact, aggressive behavior was more than doubled in youngsters who regularly watched more than two hours of television daily.

And, the Hopkins study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, found that 20 percent of kids from the 2,702 families studied watched more than two hours of TV a day. More than 40 percent of the youngsters had their own TVs in their bedrooms.

"I recommend removing the TV from the bedroom," Weidman said. Along with creating sleep problems, she said, parents simply have no control over what children are watching in their bedrooms, and they're not monitoring the programming.

"There are positives, such as educational TV, but you have to use it judiciously and monitor what the child is watching," she said. "Remember, you are the parent, and you make the decisions. Don't allow TV-watching decisions to be driven by the child."

Lucas agreed. "Try to involve yourself in your kids' media consumption," he said. "You should be aware of what they're watching, and don't have the TV on during meals or in the bedrooms."

But, he said, "don't beat yourself up too much if you plop your kids in front of a DVD sometimes." It's the constant, repeated exposure that seems to increase the risk of behavioral problems, he said.

And one more thing, Lucas suggested: Don't use the TV as background noise. Even young children, who don't understand the news, can pick up on the worry it might cause you, he said.

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