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Children's Health

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Combined video and computer game use outpaces daily TV viewing among preadolescents

Children under 11 years of age currently spend more time watching videos and playing computer games than watching television, according to a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13302). Children this age spent a mean of 1.5 hours daily watching television, 1.1 hours watching videos, and .5 hours playing computer games. Also, 30 percent of parents reported that their child had eaten breakfast or dinner in front of the television in the past week, 26 percent said their child had a television in his or her bedroom, and 22 percent were concerned about the amount of television that their child watched.

Having a TV in a child's bedroom was associated with increased television viewing (0.25 hour), video viewing (0.31 hour), and use of computer games (0.21 hour). Eating breakfast or dinner in front of the television in the past week was associated with increased TV (0.38 hour) and video (0.19 hour) viewing. In general, higher parental education was associated with fewer hours of watching television and videos (but not computer games), not having a television in the child's bedroom, and more concern about the amount of TV the child viewed.

Television viewing has been associated with problems ranging from obesity and attentional problems to aggressive behavior. Video viewing has been associated with increased body mass index, and computer games have been linked to aggressive behavior.

Strategies to reduce these sedentary behaviors in children should target parents of lower education. Parents could also benefit from tools and strategies that would help them exert more control over their children's television habits, suggest Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues at the University of Washington. Their findings were based on a telephone survey of parents whose children visited one of several university-associated primary care clinics in diverse neighborhoods during the period 2000 to 2003.

See "Television, video, and computer game usage in children under 11 years of age," by Dr. Christakis, Beth E. Ebel, M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H., Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., and Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., in the November 2004 Journal of Pediatrics 145, pp. 652-656.

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