Physical Activity Cannot Compensate for Excessive Screen Time

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Getting children out from in front of the television is important to combating childhood obesity and other ills of a sedentary lifestyle. However, even with spending time in play, if children spend more than two hours a day watching television or playing computer games, they still may be at greater risk for psychological problems suggests a new study published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

More Than Two Hours of Television or Computer Games Increases Behavior Difficulties

Dr. Angie Page of the University of Bristol’s Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences and colleagues studied more than 1,000 kids ages 10 and 11. Over a period of seven days, the children filled out a questionnaire reporting how much time they spent either watching TV or at a computer – something doctors call “screen time” – and answered questions describing their mental state. An accelerometer measured physical activity levels.

The odds of significant psychological difficulties were about 60% higher for children who spent more than two hours of screen time a day compared with kids who watched less television and played fewer video games. While those who got more physical activity fared better than their sedentary peers, those with more screen time still scored worse in behavioral areas such as hyperactivity.

Read: More than Two Hours of Television Doubles Risk of Attention Problems

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The effect was seen regardless of sex, age, stage of puberty, level of education or economic deprivation, say the researchers.

Dr. Thomas N. Robinson of the Stanford University School of Medicine, not involved in the study, told Reuters Health that the new study had limitations that could not confirm cause-and-effect, but that his own related research found that limiting screen time reduced weight gain, aggression, and consumer behaviors in kids.

Read: Too Much Television Increases Heart Disease Risk

"There are already lots of reasons to reduce kids' screen time and this is potentially another," said Robinson. "In our studies we find that giving children a screen-time budget and helping them stick to that budget is the most effective way to reduce their television, video game, computer and other screen time, and to improve their health as a result." He suggests about an hour per day, or a reduction of at least 50 percent from a kid's starting screen time.

Source Reference:
"Children's Screen Viewing is Related to Psychological Difficulties Irrespective of Physical Activity"
Angie Page et al, Published online October 11, 2010
PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1154d)

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