Watching television, playing video games or sitting in front of a computer-child

old message Storm Screens - Television, video games, and computers Darrell Miller 10/22/05

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Date: October 22, 2005 02:06 PM
Subject: Storm Screens - Television, video games, and computers

Storm Screens

Watching television, playing video games or sitting in front of a computer-children’s “screen time”-has become dangerously excessive. Much like the obesity crisis as a whole, screen time is a far more insidious threat than it may appear. A 1999 study found that the average screen time among 2- to 17-year-olds was nearly 4.5 hours per day; more recent studies report average screen time in excess of six hours per day. Not surprisingly, children who watch over three hours of television a day have been shown to be 50% more likely to be obese than kids who watch for under two hours. Perhaps most troubling, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that 22.6% of children ages 9 to 13 do not participate in any free-time physical activity. Why are children, traditionally known for almost constant motion, content to sit around and do nothing?

Part of the answer may lie in the types of foods America’s underactive children are eating. Examination of overweight children’s diets reveals a shocking dearth of nutrition. Caloric intake may not have changed much over the past 20 years, but the types of calories children consume has changed for the worse, with a heavy emphasis on nutritionally deficient process foods and sugars. A recent study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found that approximately one third of the total daily calories eaten by kids in the study came from desserts, snack foods, and pizza.

A diet dominated by simple carbohydrates sets in motion a perpetual cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes. The result? Consistently low energy levels and frequent food cravings, punctuated by brief spurts of energy gained fro high-calorie, high-sugar, nutrient-deficient foods.

This type of eating can make children so sluggish that sedentary screen time may be all they wish to pursue. So eating a Double Whopper is a double whammy- the child is not only getting a calorie-laden, non-nutritious meal, he or she is also sapped of the energy needed to burn the calories off.

As fatigue relegates children to couch potatohood, they are bombarded with persuasive commercials that glamorize theses energy-sapping, nutritionally deficient foods. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, the number of television commercial viewed by children has doubled since the 1970s, with the majority of those advertisements promoting junk food, candy and sugary cereals.

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