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Too Much Media May Be Tough on Kids' Health

Expert warns parents to limit access to computers, TV and more

TUESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- Easy access to a wide variety of media increases a child's risk for numerous health issues, such as obesity, eating disorders, drug use and early sexual activity, according to a U.S. expert.

On average, American children and teens spend more than six hours a day with media such as TV, computers, Internet, video games and VCR or DVD players -- more time than they spend per day receiving formal classroom instruction, says Dr. Victor C. Strasburger of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque.

All this media access affects a variety of health issues, he wrote in the June 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a special theme issue on child and adolescent health.

"The media are not the leading cause of any pediatric health problem in the United States, but they do make a substantial contribution to many health problems," Strasburger said. Among them: violence, sex, drugs, obesity and eating disorders.

Parents, teachers and clinicians need to be educated about these connections, and student education about media should be mandatory in schools, he recommended.

"Parents have to change the way their children access the media -- not permitting TV sets or Internet connections in the child's bedroom, limiting entertainment screen time to less than two hours per day, and co-viewing with their children and adolescents. Research has shown that media effects are magnified significantly when there is a TV set in the child's or adolescent's bedroom," Strasburger wrote.

More information

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry discusses the impact of TV violence on children.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 2, 2009

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