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Nina In New York: We’ve All Lost TV Privileges. Now Drink Your Milk and Go Outside and Play.

Kids Watching TV

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.
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By Nina Pajak

In a new study from the Association for Extremely Obvious Findings Which Probably Bear Repeating (just kidding, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity), researchers found that children who spent lots of time watching TV during their early years wound up chunky, weak and out-of-shape in elementary school.

Here’s what they did. Using 1314 children from a Quebec child development institute, they tracked time kids spent in front of the tube at 29 and 53 months. When those kids hit second grade, they tested their fitness level with a standing long jump test (SLJ). When they hit fourth grade, they measured their waist circumferences.

To wit: “Each hour per week of television watched at 29 months corresponded to a .361 cm decrease in SLJ . . . A one hour increase in average weekly television exposure from 29 to 53 months was associated with a further .285 cm reduction in SLJ test performance . . . and corresponded to a .047 cm increase in waistline circumference . . .”

I know what you’re thinking. These kids are Canadian! Study: irrelevant. Find us some hale and hearty American babes! But we’re all the same on the inside, and the fact is that our insides are turning into lard.

Also, says the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.”

Make that socially and academically impaired, molasses-brained lard.

Okay, perhaps it isn’t so obvious to many people. The AAP recommends avoiding television and other screen-based media entirely for kids under the age of 2, and limiting intake to 1-2 hours per day max of “high quality content” for kids and teenagers. And by that, I don’t think they mean Dragonball Z. Do the kids still watch that? I never understood the appeal. My brother had a VHS tape of an episode in which a character was vividly and grotesquely shown being murdered by way of a bloody impaling. He’d had to tape it because the network would only air it late at night, after the kids had gone to bed (but not before setting their VCRs to record). Gross.

I guess we always knew that television rots our brains. As adults, we engage in said brain-rotting willingly, often for the purposes of dulling the pain of quotidian, grown-up life. After years of developing our minds and thought-processes and enhancing our knowledge bases, sometimes there’s nothing like totally zapping it all to hell with an episode of The Real Housewives of Succubus City. But it should be important to parents everywhere that, with or without trans-fats and cartoonishly large sodas, we’re mapping out the next generation’s future of gym class misery just by letting our kids zone out too often and for too long.

On the other hand, I was hoping to one day use my future children and their seemingly inherent ability with electronics and computers to keep me hip and maybe work on building us a robot butler. We’ll have to work out some sort of compromise.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina In New York Archives:

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Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Imagination Is For Suckers: NOAA Claims Mermaids Don’t Exist

Is Your iPhone Making You iDumb?

The Fourth of July