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Posts tagged ‘health’

The Sedentary Life

An article from Time by staff writer Alice Park focuses on the physical health effects of kids’ television viewing. The article summarizes the findings of researchers from the US and Spain who studied inactivity in 111 children ranging from 3 to 8 years old. The researchers found that of television, Internet and video games, television is the worst for kids. They found that kids who watch excessive television are more likely to have higher blood pressure, even if they’re at a healthy weight.

Kid watching TV on the couch, eating potato chips (click for source)

What makes television worse than other sedentary activities? The findings suggest that kids watching television are likely to be eating unhealthy snacks, which could explain the rise in blood pressure. They also note that watching television right before bed stimulates kids’ minds and keeps them up. This lack of sleep affects metabolism and can cause weight gain.

While the main concerns of parents about television in the 1950s was the morality and emotional effects of television, rather than its physical effects. Family values were also central to television rhetoric. “In advice literature of the period, mass media became a central focus of concern as experts told parents how to control and regulate media in ways that promoted family values,” writes Spigel in “Seducing the Innocent.” Spigel and modern parents have similar concerns, however, when it comes to turning off the tube. Concern for kids with the “telebugeye” came about along with concerns for kids “habits of hygiene, nutrition and decorum” (p. 147). Parents have feared the effects on kids’ television-viewing habits since television’s invention, but now they have there is evidence of how detrimental “vegging out” in front of the TV can be.

For a post on the same article, please see Mira’s blog post.

Television and Children: Health Concerns

Photo from, a parenting website.

An article from Time magazine claims that watching television is sedentary behavior, which leads to obesity and bad health. The author of the article, Alice Park, says that researchers in the U.S. and in Spain studied 111 children 3-8 years old and concluded that of all the kinds of inactivity they studied, tv-watching was worst. The study showed a higher blood pressure in kids who watched a lot of tv, whether the kid was overweight or healthy. Other activities such as computer usage did not show the same blood pressure issues. The researchers tracked the childrens’ inactivity over one week using accelerometers. They found that kids who watched 90 – 330 minutes of tv per day had systolic and diastolic blood-pressure readings that were much higher than children who watched less than half an hour per day. The author quotes Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, who says, “These results show that TV-viewing really is the worst of all possible sedentary activities”. She also cites the American Academy of Pedriatrics, which recommends that children under 2 should not watch tv at all and that older children should watch only 1 or 2 hours a day. The researchers also explain that tv-watching is often accompanied by eating ‘junk food’, which can also raise blood pressure readings.

The author, Alice Park, is a staff writer for Time magazine. She generally reports on health and medicine issues. Perhaps as a result of her background, the article seems much more focused on the medical/health effects of watching too much tv rather than the psychological effects. This differs from most of the readings, which have been more focused on psychological impacts.

According to Lynn Spiegel, adults attacked television for several reasons. One reason is that graphic violence, sexuality, and bad behavior have unwholesome effects on children which threaten “the need to maintain power hierarchies between generations and to keep children innocent of adult secrets” (144).  Parents also worried that tv did not promote family values, and felt a lack of control over what the children were exposed to (147).  Adults had “a marked desire to keep childhood as a period distinct from adulthood”, so they were extremely concerned about children aquiring knowledge of adulthood before they should (150). And, of course there were fears of children imitating on-screen violence and becoming juvenile delinquents (146). However, there is some overlap between these two sources. Spiegel mentions the idea of “telebugeye”, or “a pale, weak, stupid-looking creature who grew bugeyed from sitting and watching telvision too long” (147). Parents were convinced that telvision was becoming an addiction for children, which would “reverse good habits of hygiene, nurtrition, and decorum, causing physical, mental, and social disorders” (147). I think the Time article reveals something new about the adverse effects of television, (the blood pressure findings) although the topic of health concerns as a result of watching tv is not new. These worries voiced in the Spiegel reading and the Time article have been constant since the 50’s.