Friday, November 27, 2009

What will a lot of TV do to your kid?

My friend has this technique to calm her naughty four year old son down – turn the TV on and give him the Remote Control. She does this so that she can have some peace at home, when he is around. When our little guy is in a good mood, all hell break lose at home. Papers and books fly around. Bottles of water colours are splashed on the walls of the house. Childcraft Logo (120x60)When he is in a bad mood, there is absolute havoc again. He screams and stomps. Breaks anything that comes on his way. To top it, this stay-at-home mom got  hundred other things to manage. The easy way out is to turn on the tube and let the little guy watch his favourite Pogo and Mister Bean.

Another friend of mine turns the tube on for his kid for a different reason. Both, he and his wife are so scared about letting this little one out of their studio apartment on the fourth floor. What if she falls down and scrape her knee? What if somebody hurts her? What if she is kidnapped? When ever sCouchPotatoehe says she wants to go out and play, they switch the TV on. She watches Cartoon Network and Pogo and forgets her friends playing down there  in the parking lot. The parents are relieved their five year old daughter is safe in here, happily watching her favourite characters flash on the screen. 

There is one more thing in common with both these parents. They want their children to grow up happy, smart and strong. What do they do to achieve that goal? Every month they buy a neat packet of one of these so called energy drinks. Boost, Horlics, Complan – you name it. TV commercials on energy drinks and memory enhancers are their favourites. And like many parents out there, they assume that drinking a cup of energy drink every day will make the child grow into a champ, magically. However, the truth is, even if energy drinks can do something about children growing up, tube can kill what the drink proposes to do.

I stumbled upon this article as I was reading Great Myth Conceptions by Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. The book is about some 52 misconceptions we generally have. Dr. Karl sets out to clear them, explaining each myth scientifically. One of them is the myth that children grow gradually. He says, children grow in spurts. A child may grow overnight and then may not grow for some time at all. In a study conducted by Pensalvania University and Virginia Helath Science Centre, some children did not grow at all for 63 days and then suddenly ‘spurt up to 25 mm’. ‘They found periods of non-growth varying from 2 and 28 days, with growth spurts  from 8 to 16 mm’.

In the same article, Dr. Karl also explains a research by Menzies Research Institute. ‘The institute looked at 130 boys, aged 16 and 17 years for a period of six weeks during winter. If the boys watched TV for less than one hour a day, they grew 7.5 mm.If they watched TV for two to three hours a day, they grew a lesser amount – only 2.5 mm. And if they watched more than four hours of TV, they stopped growing entirely during the six week window.’

What is the scientific reason behind this? They say Vitamin D is highly essential for children to grow. Vitamin D is required for bones to grow. And sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D. So when you shut a child in his room and switch on the TV for him, there is no chance for him to get his share of Vitamin D. Sure, they can get enough Vitamin D by eating deep-sea fish like salmons. But why spend a lot of money buying fish when you get plenty of Vitamin D for free from nature?

I hope parents who try and force their children to watch TV, will take note of this before they turn them into useless 'dwarf' couch potatoes!