Threat of Internet Usage: Screen Time and Poor Health
Probably the number one fear parents have about their children's use of the internet is fear of sexual predators. Stories of 'sting' operations in which authorities arrest an adult who has plans to meet a minor make sensational headlines. Yet research shows a there is a threat associated with minor's use of the internet that is greater than the actual threat of sexual predators and until now this threat has been ignored.The fact is that despite the media reports about sexual predators on the internet, The Internet Safety Technical Task Force found that the actual threat to children is nearly insignificant. The study found that when teens were approached about sex online it was most often by another adolescent and not an adult. Furthermore, over ninety percent of the adolescents approached responded in appropriate ways.
Sexual content on the internet may not actually be as common nor as problematic as worried parents imagine. Less than half (42%) of the youth surveyed reported exposure to pornographic content and, of those, only 67% reported that they did not want to see the explicit content. Only 9% exposed to sexually explicit content reported were either very or extremely upset.
What the Task Force did find is that a significant threat to children's health and well-being is directly attributable to the amount of electronic media a child consumes, regardless of the content. Even taking into account other factors (the age or gender of the child; the parent's marital status, ethnicity or body mass index; and the types of foods the child eats), the amount of media usage was the best predictor of a child's poor psychological and overall physical health, including obesity.
The exact relationship between 'screen time' and poor health among children is unknown. What the lasting effects might be for children or whether the amount of media usage by adults has any detrimental effects are also not known at this time.
In the United States, kids younger than six spend an average of two hours a day in front of a screen. Older kids and teens spend over five and a half hours a day in front of a screen! These findings are not at all in line with recommendations put forth by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which suggests limiting the time kids over two years old spend in front of a screen to no more than one to two hours per day. The AAP discourages any screen time for children younger than two 2 years of age. The AAP also recommends that all kids over two years of age get at least sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.
Overweight kids are at greater risk for:
High blood pressure and High cholesterol
Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes
Bone and joint problems
Asthma and Sleep apnea
Gall bladder disease
A tendency to sexually mature earlier, raising the expectation that they act as old as they look.