Experts recommend that children be kept from watching too much television. Many hours spent in front of a screen can be damaging. This is common knowledge, but new research shows just how damaging it can be.
Studies from the University of Saragozza in Spain and from San Paulo in Brazil found that children who watch television or sit in front of game consuls for more than two hours a day are at much greater risk of suffering from hypertension in comparison with their peers.
The research was conducted with more than 5,000 children between two and ten years old who came from eight different European countries: Spain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Cyprus, Estonia, Switzerland, and Belgium. The research, called IDEFICS (Identification and Prevention of Dietary and Lifestyle Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants) was recently published in the International Journal of Cardiology.
The researchers wanted to show, with scientific support, precisely what everyone—whether expert or not—has hitherto thought. They sought to establish whether a direct correlation exists between hypertension (the clinical condition in which blood pressure in the arteries is elevated) and the amount of time a child is exposed to the TV.
The results showed that this effect was verified in 110 out of 1000 cases, that is, more than one in 10 children.
For exposure to the computer or videogames, an incredible 30 percent higher risk of problems with hypertension was recorded.
“The study shows the number of new cases of hypertension and the connection between physical activity, different sedentary habits, and the risk of high blood pressure in European children,” said the Brazilian Scholar Augusto César F. de Moraes, one of the ten members on the research team, in a media statement. Not only that, however. The authors of the study caution that such conditions could open the doors to more serious cardiovascular problems throughout the years, such as a greater risk for ischemic heart disease.
What can be done? What are the possible remedies and concrete solutions to adopt, beyond the usual advice experts offer—which parents often do not heed?
The answer comes directly from the researchers themselves. It is the old, yet ever effective, invitation to take part in physical activity. Children, and I would say adolescents in general, should take part of physical activities for more than one hour a day.
Additionally, they should not spend more than two hours a day in sedentary activities such as watching television or playing videogames. Physical activity in fact increases the rate of oxygenation of the heart in our bodies, which in turn decreases arterial pressure, producing general benefits for the whole organism.
A good supplement to physical activity is, for example, reading a book, perhaps to comment upon as a family with discussion and debate. This facilitates the development of a critical mind and capacity to articulate oneself in children, which is essential for performing well in studies and for life in general.
So parents, what are you waiting for? In the northern hemisphere, anyway, it’s spring! Go outside with your children and have a nice run in the park, or perhaps a game of ball, and turn off—at least for today—the videogames.
Fabrizio Piciarelli is the Web Editor of Family and Media, where this article was first published.