Michael Fumento

This just in! New study shows little kids watch lots of TV! Yeah, I know you’re “Shocked, shocked!” What may surprise you, though, is the extent to which these children are being exposed to television and why. Kids aren’t just gravitating to the tube; the one-eyed monster is being used as a babysitter by parents who think they’re too busy for them and by folks who see giving a child his own tube as a way of allowing them to gorge on TV.

According to the latest Media Family report conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation:

* While more children read or are read to than watch TV on a typical day, the average time spent reading is 48 minutes per day while the average time watching TV is 1 hour 19 minutes.

* A third of children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years have a TV set in their bedrooms – and yes they do watch considerably more than kids who don’t have one.

* Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two not watch any TV, more companies than ever are targeting tender tots. Witness BabyFirst TV, a new 24/7 TV channel.

* Poorer children are most under assault from the tube. Kids from families earning less than $20,000 a year watch an average of half an hour more TV per day.
This is so sad, because TV makes kids fatter and dumber.

TV has been recognized as a serious contributor to childhood obesity at least since William Dietz and Steven Gortmaker asked the question in a landmark 1985 article: "Do We Fatten Our Children at the Television Set?" Countless subsequent surveys have found a cause-and-effect relationship between more TV and more body fat. In 1993 Gortmaker and Dietz “estimated almost a third of childhood obesity could be erased if TV viewing were reduced to an hour or less a week.”

A study published in January in the International Journal of Obesity by New Zealand researchers found that the amount of TV children watch is more connected to being overweight than either nutritional intake or physical activity.

So all TV and no play makes Jack a fat boy. What about the “dumber” aspect?

Some of those kids are watching Sesame Street and other educational shows. But in the ratings game, Big Bird is getting the rotisserie treatment from SpongeBob SquarePants. Only a fourth of parents surveyed even claiming their children watched mostly educational shows.

Michael Fumento

Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .

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