It may not be the kind of milk you give your children that helps them perform better academically, lead healthier lifestyles, and observe a general wellbeing during their later stages of development, but what you withhold from them—namely, time spent in front of the television.
At least, that's according to a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine by child experts from the universities in Canada and the United States. The study showed that exposure to television between the ages of two and four may correspond to negative consequences for your kids at the later stages of development, such as unhealthy habits and trouble adjusting in school.
Says Dr. Linda S. Pagani, the lead author of the study and a psychosocial professor and researcher: "We found every additional hour of TV exposure among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index."
The study involved over a thousand kids. Their parents were asked to tell the researchers how much TV their kids watched at 29 and 53 months old. Then, when the children reached the age of ten, their body mass indexes (BMIs) were measured, and their teachers were asked to give assessment on the kids' academic, psychosocial, and health habits.
The result of the study showed that toddlers who watched too much TV (more than the maximum of two hours daily suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics) were, among other things:
- 7 percent less likely to participate in the classroom
- 10 percent more likely to be victimized by classsmates (bullying, alienation, etc.)
- 9 percent less likely to engage in general physical activity
They also noted higher snacks intake and a higher BMI in children who watched too much TV.
The problem, says Pagani, is that TV promotes a sedentary lifestyle. She recommends "engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks which foster cognitive, behavioral, and motor development."
For more findings and details on the study, read the original article from Medical News Today.
Not sure how you can do that? Here are three suggestions that don't involve switching on the tube:
Be there for your children.
Because you have a vested interest in their development, you should make it a point to spend as much time as possible with your kids. That means more than being physically present. You should engage them in conversations—ask them about their days, tell them a little about yours. Ask for their help around the house or show them how things work. Show your interest in your surroundings and in engaging in activities away from the TV. Children learn a lot through imitation, and if you come home from work, switch on the TV, and leave it on, that's sending a message to them that it's OK, even good, to follow suit. At the very least, make sure you take your meals away from the boob tube.
Spend quality time outdoors with your kids.
Summer is the best time to do this. You can take advantage of the hot weather and sunny days and teach your kids to swim (even infants and toddlers can have their first swimming lessons), or you can go on eco-jaunts as part of your campaign to teach your kids how to love the environment. Both suggestions have the advantage of promoting exercise and healthy living.
Encourage them to play games or read instead of watching TV.
TV is a passive form of entertainment—beyond hitting the buttons on the remote control once in a while, all you really do is sit there. Get your kids to engage in activities more; this will develop curiosity and imagination. You can buy educational games, or you can teach them your own childhood favorites, like checkers and hand clapping games like "Miss Mary Mack" or "I Had a Little Puppy." You should make it a habit to read to them at bedtime or naptime, perhaps even engaging in some interactive storytelling. All these activities will encourage your children to entertain themselves in ways that put their muscles or minds to work.
(Photo source: sxc.hu—retro TV, child)