Toddlers' TV Habits Linked to Slew of Health Problems

More reasons you should limit the time your kids spend in front of the tube

The TV has been called a lot of things, but a healthy activity is probably not one of them. Still, the "electronic babysitter" has provided a welcome respite for many an overworked mom.

A new study this week linking toddlers’ television viewing with poor school performance and unhealthy habits, though, might have many reconsidering. The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, tracked the TV habits of 1,300 two-year-olds for two years. The average time toddlers spent watching TV was 8.82 hours per week, or about 1.2 hours per day. Researchers then followed up with the children when they were 10.

For every additional hour of TV that they'd watched a week when they were two, the 10-year-olds displayed:

* A seven percent decrease in classroom participation

* A six percent drop in math scores

* 13 percent less time engaging in weekend physical activity

* A 10 percent increase in snacks- and soft drink consumption

* A five percent increase in body mass index

* And a 10 percent increase in being bullied by classmates.

Though getting victimized by your peers might sound like a peculiar side-effect of too much TV, Monday’s news report that overweight kids are 65% more likely to be bullied than kids of average weight is probably all the explanation we need.

Children in the U.S. watch an average of three to four hours of TV a day, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that kids should watch no more than one to two hours daily. Those same guidelines suggest no TV at all for children under two.

According to the study’s lead author, Linda Pagani, PhD, time spent in front of the television is time that could be better used engaging in other more active, intellectual pursuits. Sitting in front of the TV doesn’t improve motor, social or reading skills, she says. What’s more, behaviors like TV viewing can be cemented into habits, because it’s a time of immense development.

That doesn't mean you should feel guilty every time you flip on the tube. But the findings provide a good incentive to seek out alternative distractions for kids. Need some ideas on how to keep your kids engaged—without a TV? Try these tips to keep your kids busy without turning on the tube.

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