Too much computer time hits bone health in adolescents

Researchers have found that in boys, higher screen time was adversely associated to bone mineral density (BMD) at all sites even when adjusted for specific lifestyle factors.

Results of a study showed that the skeleton grows continually from birth to the end of the teenage years, reaching peak bone mass – maximum strength and size- in early adulthood. Along with nutritional factors, physical activity can also greatly impact on this process.

The Norwegian study explored the hypothesis that greater computer use at weekends is associated with lower BMD. The data was obtained from 463 girls and 484 boys aged 15-18 years in the Tromso region of Norway. The students participated in the Fit Futures study from 2010-2011 which assessed more than 90 per cent of all first year high school students in the region.

BMD at total hip, femoral neck and total body was measured by DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). Lifestyle variables were collected by self-administered questionnaires and interviews, including questions on time per day during weekends spent in front of the television or computer, and time spent on leisure time physical activities. The associations between BMD and screen time were analyzed in a multiple regression model that included adjustment for age, sexual maturation, BMI, leisure time physical activity, smoking, alcohol, cod liver oil and carbonated drink consumption.

Source: Business standard


Surprise: Doc says iPads may be OK for babies

A doctor who helped write guidelines discouraging media use by babies and toddlers says he’s had second thoughts about the iPad and other devices.

Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, a Seattle pediatrician who studies the effect of media on children, now says that kids younger than 2 may actually benefit from 30 minutes to 60 minutes a day of screen time — as long as it’s interactive, not passive.

“I believe that the judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of 2 years,” he wrote in an opinion piece this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

It’s a somewhat surprising position for the researcher who admits he’s developed a reputation as the “anti-TV guy,” especially when it comes to the youngest viewers. He co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 guidelines that frown on media use by kids younger than 2.

In the new piece, however, Christakis notes that the guidelines, updates of 1999 recommendations, were written before the 2010 debut of Apple’s iPad and the slew of tablets and devices that followed.

“The statement was drafted with no knowledge that such a device would ever exist,” wrote Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“Now, 3 years later, we still know surprisingly little about how iPads and other interactive media technologies affect children’s cognition — research is simply unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances —and these devices are increasingly popular.”

Even without hard data, however, Christakis said he has concluded that interactive iPad and device apps that engage a baby may be as mentally stimulating as old-fashioned toys such as blocks or even a See ‘N’ Say, which allows kids to develop a sense of accomplishment by matching animal images and sounds.

They’re all very different than passive television viewing, which is known to have detrimental effects on cognition, or videos or DVDs aimed at babies, which can be overstimulating and potentially harmful, Christakis said.

That’s a view echoed by Elizabeth R. Sowell, a neuropsychologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. She told TODAY that guidelines based on TV viewing aren’t comparable to those for interactive screen time on devices used by babies and toddlers.

“The brain is developing so rapidly during that period of time and interactive challenges, whether it’s blocks or playing games on the iPad, that’s really going to wire the brain differently than passive viewing,” said Sowell, who is also principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Both Christakis and Sowell cautioned that parents need to closely monitor their babies’ screen time. Just as there have been problems with too much internet use in older kids and teens, there’s the danger of “compulsive use of iPads” among the youngest users.

And, iPad or other device use should never interfere with the full range of social, physical and other activities that babies need to develop, Christakis added.

“I do hope parents will take to heart that they should put some limits on it,” he said. “This is not just to allow their child to play willy-nilly for hours and hours.”

Source: Today

6 ways to have a healthy online life

The average tween or teen consumes nearly 11 hours of media a day, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, and scientists are raising concerns about how all that screen time is affecting young people.

That 11-hour average shows how multitasking has become routine for young people. For example, in the 2010 Kaiser study, one hour of watching videos while simultaneously texting would count as two hours of media consumption.

But even without factoring in multitasking, the screen-time numbers young people are racking up are astonishing. Surveys by market researcher Ipsos Mobility last fall show that on school days Canadian teens spend five hours a day just on their smartphones — texting, social networking, gaming, and watching videos.

Scientists worry it’s producing distracted kids who have a hard time focusing and thinking deeply or analytically.

Some educators and parents say anxiety is climbing in kids who spend so much time curating multiple online profiles, keeping up with hundreds of digital friends, and picking their way through the sometimes nasty world of social media and online bullying.

But experts say there are ways to counteract some of those effects, and ensure that kids have a healthier online life.

Source: CBC


Screen Time Study Finds Education Drop-Off

With children spending more time in front of screens than ever, parents sometimes try to convince themselves that playing Angry Birds teaches physics, or that assembling outfits on a shopping app like Polyvore fires creativity.

According to a study scheduled for release on Friday, however, less than half the time that children age 2 to 10 spend watching or interacting with electronic screens is with what parents consider “educational” material. Most of that time is from watching television, with mobile devices contributing relatively little educational value.

What is more, the study, by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit producer of “Sesame Street,” shows that as children spend more time with screens as they get older, they spend less time doing educational activities, with 8- to 10-year-olds spending about half the time with educational content that 2- to 4-year-olds do.

Athena Devlin, a professor of women’s and American studies at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and the mother of two children, said that her son, Elias, a kindergartner, still watched quite a bit of public television, including shows like “Wild Kratts” and “Dino Dan,” and that she has been impressed by the detailed facts he learns.

But her daughter, Laura, a fourth grader, prefers shows like “Jessie” on the Disney Channel or “Total Drama Island” on the Cartoon Network, which Professor Devlin sees as the preteen equivalent of her own addiction to “Scandal.”

“I feel like with the educational content of television, the bottom drops out of it after age 5 or 6,” she said. “It’s a bummer, and I’ve looked out for it.”

She said that when playing games, her daughter liked Wizard101, while both children gravitated toward Fruit Ninja or Clumsy Ninja, whose educational value Professor Devlin does not rate highly.

“It would be nice if they could get pleasure out of something that also taught them something,” she said.

According to the survey, 2- to 4-year-olds spent a little over two hours a day on screen, with one hour and 16 minutes of educational time, while 8- to 10-year-olds spent more than two and a half hours a day on screen, but only 42 minutes was considered educational. The survey was based on interviews with 1,577 parents and conducted online from June 28 to July 24 by GfK, a research company.

The survey allowed parents to assess whether a game or program taught social and emotional skills, as well as cognitive learning related to vocabulary, math or science.

The survey said lower-income families reported that their children spent more time with educational programming on screen than middle-income and higher-income families did. Families earning less than $25,000 said 57 percent of their children’s screen time was educational, while families earning $50,000 to $99,000 said it was 38 percent.

Michael H. Levine, the executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, said that particularly for the most vulnerable children who might falter in their academic careers, “we need to have a better balance in the way these media are used.”

Vicki Rideout, who wrote the report, said that with teachers seizing on digital media as a new way to ignite children’s interest at school, more needed to be done to ensure that out-of-school screen activities were not only educational but of high quality.

“It’s far too easy for the best stuff only to be available for the kids who already have many opportunities,” said Ms. Rideout, “and to flip into content that has the gloss of education on it, without the substance, for the kids who are in need.”

Michael Thornton, a second-grade teacher at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School in Charlottesville, Va., and the father of three children under 6, said parents were increasingly asking him for referrals to educational apps, like Geared and Glass Tower, for teaching math and spatial recognition skills, and Chicktionary, for vocabulary.

But, he acknowledged, “you have to really take your time to search through them.”