Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

More frightening reasons why screens are taking over our personalities.
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TerryS
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Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by TerryS » Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:59 am

Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Slate recently published an article called “Are TV and Video Games Making Kids Fat?”

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_an ... sity_.html


The author, Darshak Sanghavi argues that no, TV and Video Games do not make kids fat. According to Sanghavi:
“If video games aren’t the problem, then what about television? We’ve know for a long time that attempts to reduce television-watching among children have a limited effect on their body weight. For a 1999 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers gave a group of third- and fourth-graders in California regular lessons on the dangers of excessive television. Their parents were asked to enforce time budgets (using a device to limit total screen time) and participate in television turnoffs lasting 10 days, among other projects. This very involved, two-month intervention halved television watching among participants. Eight months later, researchers measured the children’s heights and weights, and compared them to those taken from children at a school without a similar program. The drastic reduction in television-watching made for only a very modest difference: Weight gains in the experimental group were reduced by an average of only one pound.”
But 8 to 10-year-olds are still growing. Just purely from growth they would be expected to gain weight. That is why the researchers, who did this study, did not use weight as their main metric. From the link that Sanghavi provided, this is how the researchers described their results:
Journal of the American Medical Association 1999

“Results: Compared with controls, children in the intervention group had statistically significant relative decreases in body mass index… , triceps skinfold thickness… , waist circumference… , and waist-to-hip ratio… . Relative to controls, intervention group changes were accompanied by statistically significant decreases in children’s reported television viewing and meals eaten in front of the television. There were no statistically significant differences between groups for changes in high-fat food intake, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness.”

Conclusions: Reducing television, videotape, and video game use may be a promising, population-based approach to prevent childhood obesity.”

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/282/16/1561
Sanghavi also argues that:
“It’s also not necessarily the case that increasing screen time will lead a child to gain weight: Between 1999 and 2010, screen time among kids jumped by more than two hours per day, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yet childhood obesity rates remained relatively stable over the same period.”
But TV viewing did not increase by over two hours per day over that period. If it turns out that TV is the main driver of our obesity epidemic, then that would explain why obesity rates did not greatly increase during that 20 year period (when gaming and internet increased a lot, while TV viewing increased only a little bit).

It could very well be that gaming and the internet are being incorrectly blamed for the obesity epidemic. Definitely more studies need to be done. Personally, I would like to see more studies looking at the effects of only reducing TV time or only reducing other forms of screen-time to find out once and for all if only one or the other is the culprit, or if, indeed, they are both the culprit. Another issue is all the TV ads for junk food. Could cutting out all junk food commercials (without reducing TV-time) reduce BMI? This is another avenue worth pursuing.

Sanghavi also conveniently fails to mention that there have been a number of studies looking at the effects on BMI of cutting back on screen-time:

Telegraph 2008

“However, at the end of the two years scientists found that the limited group weighed on average 10 per cent less than those who could view as much television as they wanted.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... eight.html
Science Daily 2009

“Reducing TV Time Helps Adults Burn More Calories, Study Finds”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 162324.htm
Health Psychology 1995

“The results of the study, published in Health Psychology in 1995, showed that the children who were reinforced for being less sedentary-e.g., less television and less computer games-had a bigger weight loss than the children who were reinforced for increasing their physical activity.”

http://www.buffalo.edu/ubreporter/archi ... 15/n5.html
This is not the first time Slate has published pro-TV claptrap:

The Benefits of Bozo

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/ ... _bozo.html

and my critic of the aptly named “The Benefits of Bozo”

http://tvsmarter.wordpress.com/2009/12/ ... s-of-bozo/


Common Dreams has an excellent article called “Why Newsweek is Bad for Kids”. The authors make the following argument:
“Why, against all common sense, is Newsweek going to try and convince us that television is good for kids? Well, one reason might be: Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post Company, which owns a sprawling cable company and six broadcast stations around the country. Of course, nowhere in the article does Newsweek tell us this.”

http://www.commondreams.org/views02/1114-02.htm
And guess what? Slate is also owned by the Washington Post:
“On 21 December 2004 it was purchased by the Washington Post Company. Since 4 June 2008 Slate has been managed by The Slate Group, an online publishing entity created by the Washington Post Company to develop and manage web-only magazines.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slate_(magazine)
What a coincidence! Actually, I do think this is a coincidence. Since almost all of the big media have become hugely concentrated, it is not surprising that both Newsweek and Slate would be owned by a huge media conglomerate that also owns TV stations. Even if a writer were so inclined, heavily critiquing TV at Slate, or any other media-conglomerate magazine would not be a good career move.

Update: Two more ways that TV increases weight gain.

Reduced Metabolic rate:
“Results indicated that metabolic rate during television viewing was significantly lower (mean decrease of 211 kcal extrapolated to a day) than during rest. “

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/c ... 1.abstract

Exposure to Junk Food Advertisement:

“TV Food Advertising Increases Children’s Preference for Unhealthy Foods, Study Finds”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 112640.htm

“Childhood Obesity: It’s Not the Amount of TV, It’s the Number of Junk Food Commercials”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 095753.htm

“TV Bombards Children With Commercials For High-Fat And High-Sugar Foods”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 181155.htm
“People were eating without awareness that the ads were causing them to eat. One possible mechanism is that the pleasure associated with eating presented in the ads primed eating behaviors in general. Thus even if people do not remember which products were advertised, the ads will affect their behavior.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/men ... es-you-eat

Gutenberg
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Re: Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by Gutenberg » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:32 pm

That less physical activity results in obesity, is quite natural in my opinion. If watching television, surfing the Internet and playing video games replace physical activity, I'd be surprised if you'd NOT gain weight over time.

There is even research that concludes that watching television has a “profound lowering effect of metabolic rate”. That is in other words fairly strong evidence in favour of the link between watching television and obesity. See this thread for more information about this.

P.S. Thanks for this post TerryS!

TerryS
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Re: Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by TerryS » Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:00 am

Thanks!

It really does make sense that sitting around for hours leads to weight gain. Sanghavi really did cherry-pick his evidence. He wrote about playing video games burning more calories than sitting still, but then failed to mention the study you brought up showing that TV watching burns significantly fewer calories than sitting still.

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/c ... 1.abstract

In fact in comments Sanghavi writes:
“... But your point is well taken and perhaps one key is that schools and parents just need to try way, way harder to limit passive screen time. In the end, however, parents only have so much energy, and I'd argue that these battles are likely to have higher yields if focused primarily on diet for obese kids.”
But why do overweight kids eat so much junk food? Could it have anything to do with billions of dollars spent on junk food commercials that specifically target children?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 130951.htm

That Slate article really got my goat. But to their credit, they didn't take down my comments and Sanghavi even answered one of my comments.

Gutenberg
Posts: 320
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Re: Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by Gutenberg » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:24 am

Here is a relevant article that was published a couple of weeks ago:


Why televisions should be banned from toddlers' bedrooms to help tackle obesity

"Parents should remove televisions from children’s bedrooms to combat record rates of obesity in youngsters, experts have warned. And nurseries need to ban toddlers from watching programmes in a bid to prevent a growing number of children from starting school dangerously overweight, according to academics involved in an EC-funded project."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... esity.html

JuniorMan
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Re: Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by JuniorMan » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:17 pm

When you sit in front of the TV screen for hours and hours on end flipping channels and doing nothing, you are just burning away all the time you could be doing other things.

I have to confess I played video games a lot growing up as a kid, and will be the first one to tell you how easy it is to get warped by them. There's nothing wrong with video games if you limit yourself and not sit there for more than an hour just doing them to burn time. The more I played video games, I became increasingly good in them but everything else around me was suffering.

Television watching just destroys everything else. I know a guitar teacher in my town that constantly says TV is bad and tells his students if they want to become these awesome guitar players like they dream of, they need to turn the TV off and focus all those hours from watching TV, to practicing. So many hours lost for the guitar just watching that garbage.

TerryS
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Re: Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Post by TerryS » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:11 am

Hi JuniorMan
“Television watching just destroys everything else. I know a guitar teacher in my town that constantly says TV is bad and tells his students if they want to become these awesome guitar players like they dream of, they need to turn the TV off and focus all those hours from watching TV, to practicing. So many hours lost for the guitar just watching that garbage.”


Wow, great teacher. That's so rare for anyone to give that advice. I hope some of the kids are taking his advice to heart. Even if they aren't spending the extra time practicing, just about anything would be better than watching TV.

Terry

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