TUESDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Apparently, today's
youngsters love their media -- a lot.
So finds a new British study, which reveals that media
"multi-tasking" is all the rage among some 10- and 11-year-olds who
simultaneously surf TV, laptops, cell phones and other devices.
"Children are doing lots of screen-viewing at the same time, [and] the TV was just a small part of this viewing," noted study lead author Russell Jago, from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol.
His advice: "Parents should be encouraged to work with their
children to negotiate screen-time limits regardless of the type or
location of the viewing."
One expert based in the United States wasn't surprised by the
"Over the last decade we've seen a big increase in what had previously been a fairly stable amount of media exposure," said David Bickham, a research scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston. "And that's because now it's not just the TV. It's in the pocket. So any moment a child has when his time isn't being occupied with something can default into media use. And that can be listening to music, talking on the phone, checking e-mail, going on Facebook."
The findings are published in the current issue of the
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical
In the study, Jago's team worked with focus groups involving 63
British kids between the ages of 10 and 11. They found clear
indications that among this age group, use of more than one form of
media at a time has become persistent and routine.
The traditional child-distracter, television, remains a key part
of the mix . But TV has been joined by a myriad of other
technologies -- cell phones, game players, MP3 players (such as
iPods), laptops and iPads. Many kids use the TV as mere background
while they fiddle away on these other gadgets, the team found.
Why? Many kids in the focus groups simply said that high-tech
multi-tasking was fun. They said it also fills in any "downtime"
occurring on other media, such as when video games are loading , TV
commercials are on, or if the family has chosen what they consider
a "boring" TV show.
Since many of the devices used are portable, kids are often
roaming throughout the house while they switch from one source of
media to the other, the researchers added.
And when is all this multi-tasking most likely to happen? Often
in the window of time right after school and before dinner, the
Parents who are concerned about their kids' fixation with media
gadgets need to negotiate some time away from them, Jago said.
"Limiting screen-time during periods when it is easier for the
children to do other things, such as physical activity in the
after-school period, is likely to be key to these negotiation
efforts," he suggested.
But Bickham, who is also an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard
Medical School, said it's often tough to get a child to drop the
screens and head for the greens.
"We also know from previous work that if you just shut off a kid's media devices they're not going to magically go out and double-dutch all day or play with Hula-Hoops and explore the sunny summer," he added. "It takes more than that. So if you really want to encourage outdoor play you have to help them reduce their media use and you also have to increase their means to go out and
access outdoor play, by making sure they have friends to play with
and making sure that there are organized activities that appeal to
them. It takes some effort."
For more on children and media use, visit the
American Academy of Pediatrics.
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