February 20th, 2007

Watching Television 'Is Serious Threat to Health of Children"

By Sam Marsden
Belfast Telegraph

Watching television poses a greater risk to children’s health than was previously thought, a report claims.

Analysis of 35 scientific studies identified 15 negative effects that television can have on youngsters, ranging from short-sightedness and obesity to premature puberty and autism. The author of the report, Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist, proposes banning the youngest children from watching television and only introducing it “judiciously” after that. The average six-year-old child in Britain will have spent a full year watching television and over half of three-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom, Dr Sigman said. He added: “To allow children to continue to watch this much screen media is an abdication of parental responsibility, truly hands-off parenting.”

His report, published in the science journal Biologist, concludes that cutting children’s viewing time must become a health priority and could save the NHS money.

The report also notes that permanent eyesight damage has been strongly linked to watching television, and says viewing may be a bigger factor in causing obesity than diet or exercise. It also increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Dr Sigman said it was “disconcerting” that some academics warned against over-reacting to these findings. By ignoring them we could “ultimately be responsible for the greatest health scandal of our time”, he added."While society has shown alarm over school dinners, it has ignored the high-screen diet children have been consuming.”

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