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Keeping Kids Out of Trouble Through Activity  

The following study was reviewed by Michael Eckstein M.D. on March 31, 2006 on the Science Daily web site. As a psychologist and father I completely concur with the study and conclusions.  We're not doing our children any big favors by allowing videogames and televisions to be the default babysitters.  In fact, we're doing them a serious disservice in my opinion.   

Dr. Eckstein reported that the lead researcher, Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,  reported that although much has been made of the importance of exercise in fighting the swelling problem of childhood obesity, "there are clearly benefits to exercise other than weight control" said Dr. Gordon-Larsen..  "And kids who spend their free time in front of the TV are missing out on those benefits" she added.  "It's clear there can be adverse effects to watching TV",  Dr. Gordon-Larsen said in relation to research that links violent or sexual content on television shows to kidís behavior. But beyond the effects of media, she said that children who spend their free time on the couch miss out on the socialization, teamwork and skill development that comes with being active.  She concluded that among the nearly 12,000 middle and high school students in her study, those who were physically active were much less likely than their couch potato peers to smoke, drink, use drugs or have sex.  Also, they often had higher grades and higher self-esteem.  Dr. Gordon-Larsen stated that "across the board, children who engaged in any kind of activity were better off than kids who watched a lot of TV."   

 

She said these findings which were also published in Pediatrics, does not mean that the activities have to be traditional sports.  In fact, she found that kids who favored "alternative" activities like skateboarding also had higher levels of self-esteem and were less prone to take health risks.   

The bottom line for parents according to the researcher is that they should encourage their kids to pursue whatever activities they happen to enjoy, and that if Mom and Dad can handle skateboarding or enjoy other activities with their children, even better.  Teens in the study who engaged in sports and exercise with their parents were particularly likely to remain on the straight and narrow. 

Article and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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