Is TV Killing Us… and Our Kids?

An article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times entitled Hours Sitting in Front of TV Found to Shorten Life revealed the results of a new study that found that each hour per day spent watching TV was linked with an 18% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer. The study also revealed that people who watch more than four hours of television each day have an 80% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 46% higher risk of death overall when compared with those who watch fewer than two hours a day.

Another LA Times article that came out in October called Kids Watch More Than a Day of TV Each Week revealed the latest Nielson numbers which found that television usage by children has reached an eight year high with children ages 2 to 5 watching an average of more than 32 hours each week, on average. Some quick math reveals that that is an average of more than four and a half hours every day, putting those children in the 80% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease category.

We know a sedentary lifestyle puts us, and our kids, at risk. In fact, experts warn that this may be the first generation of children who are outlived by their own parents. At an American Medical Association press briefing, Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity reported that six out of ten children today have a quantifiable risk factor for heart disease by the time they are 10 years old. “The more TV children view, the more likely they are to be overweight,” he says. “Reduction in TV viewing constitutes the single most effective way for children to lose weight.” A shocking study of the impact of television viewing which followed children from birth through adolescence reported that television viewing is the single greatest predictor of childhood obesity, even more than nutritional intake or physical activity.

After I wrote the articles TV’s Attack on Your Child’s Health for Los Angeles Family Magazine and Television and Your Child: What Every Parent Needs to Know, I started to seriously question how much television I wanted to expose my children to. But having grown up with a television in my bedroom, I couldn’t image not letting them watch. We live in a media saturated culture but, by the time my twin daughters were born in October of 2006, my husband and I made a choice not to let them watch television at all for the first two years. We made a plan to reevaluate every year. My children are now 3 years old and have never watched TV. I realize that this may make us a bit unusual as a family, but the benefits have been tremendous. Study after study show that children who do not watch television have better vocabularies, increased attention spans, more creativity and fewer health risks. My family has gotten to see many of those results first hand. Considering trying it in your home?

For more information about this issue check out :

The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy Confident Kids

SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years

The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work For Your Kids

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It

Remotely Controlled: How Television Is Damaging Our Lives

Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age Five

If you are thinking about going cold-turkey, check out these great reads:

The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid

Living Outside the Box: TV-Free Families Share Their Secrets

Living Without the Screen: Causes and Consequences of Life Without Television