Creating tele-tubbies

Pediatricians' report: Conclusion was exaggerated, but maybe that's what it takes to open some eyes.

August 11, 1999

MOST PARENTS realize that watching television is not the most healthy activity for their children. But the American Academy of Pediatrics may have startled them nonetheless with its recent recommendation that children under age 2 watch no television at all.

The organization also recommended that parents keep logs for their pediatricians of the nature and amount of programming their older children watch.

Scientific evidence to support the claims was scant, and the warning may be overblown. But the exaggeration helped make the point: Children need mental and physical activity, and watching television is the epitome of passivity.

The pediatricians blamed television for an increase in childhood obesity. Frequent trips for fast-food might, we suspect, play a role, too. But it's undeniable that when children are watching television, they are not outside playing and not likely to be burning calories and building muscle.

Parents need to curb their reliance on the "electronic baby sitter." They might consider talking, reading, making cookies or playing catch with their children. Over the long run, this human interaction is more powerful than all the images and messages the one-eyed monster can transmit.

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