The use of electronic media, such as watching television, using computers and playing electronic games, was associated with poorer well-being in children. Researchers noted that using electronic media can be a sedentary behavior and sedentary behavior is associated with adverse health outcomes, and may be detrimental at a very young age.
The authors of the new study used data from the European Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS) study to examine the association of using electronic media between ages 2 and 6 years and the well-being of children two years later. Questionnaires were used to measure six indicators of well-being, including emotional and peer problems, self-esteem, emotional well-being, family functioning and social networks.
Among 3,604 children, electronic media use appeared to be associated with poorer well-being. Watching television appeared to be associated with poorer outcomes more than playing electronic games or using computers. The risk of emotional problems and poorer family functioning increased with each additional hour of watching TV or electronic game and computer use.
"Higher levels of early childhood electronic media use are associated with children being at risk for poorer outcomes with some indicators of well-being. … Further research is required to identify potential mechanisms of this association," the authors have concluded.
Second Study Examines Monitoring of TV, Video Games With BMI
A second study published in JAMA indicates that more maternal monitoring of the time children spend watching TV or playing video games appears to be associated with lower body mass index (BMI).
Children's media consumption (time spent in front of TVs and computers) is associated with childhood obesity, as many studies have found. However, parental influences, such as media monitoring, have not been effectively studied.
In this study, the authors examined the potential association of parental monitoring of their children's exposure to media and general activities with the children's BMI in an analysis that included 112 mothers, 103 fathers and their 213 children at age 5, 7 and/or 9 years.
The results showed that less monitoring by mothers of the time their children spent watching TV or playing video games appears to be associated with higher BMI for children at age 7 and increasing deviance from child BMI norms between the ages of 5 to 9 years. The finding was not evident for paternal monitoring.
"Low maternal media monitoring does not seem to reflect more general parent disengagement or lack of awareness regarding children's behaviors and whereabouts. The association between lower maternal media monitoring and higher child BMI was primarily explained by a tendency for these children to spend more hours per week watching television and playing video games. This supports the validity of our interpretation that child media time has direct effects on BMI, is under substantial control by parents, and therefore is a prime target for family intervention," the authors noted.
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