Picture used for illustration.
The last two months have seen TV numbers climb through the roof. People are watching local news to keep themselves updated, streaming Netflix as well as watching on-demand movies. However, experts recommend that instead of sitting in front of a screen, you should find other habits to fill your day.
HOW MUCH TV IS TOO MUCH FOR ADULTS?
Doctors and researchers have come up with slightly different answers, but the general rule is that anything more than three and a half hours of television each day can be excessive.
“There was no association with adverse effects for watching up to three and a half hours a day,” said Daisy Fancourt, an associate professor of psychology and epidemiology at University College London. She co-wrote a 2019 study that associated excessive TV watching among older adults with increased memory loss. “But (any time) beyond that was associated with cognitive decline.”
One key connection doctors have found: People who watch excessive amounts of TV are usually also seated for long stretches of the day, a sedentary activity with side effects so dangerous that some within the medical community have referred to sitting as “the new smoking.”
“If we’re spending so much time watching TV, it may be that we’re not spending enough time doing other activities that would keep our brains healthy, like exercising, reading and socialising with other people,” Tina Hoang, a research associate at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, said via email.
In 2015, Hoang was a coauthor on a study that evaluated TV watching as a proxy for a sedentary lifestyle. Their research showed high television viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worse cognitive function later in life, a potential risk factor for neurological disease such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
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WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?
The guidelines around TV watching and screen time for children are much more precise.
Infants and toddlers should be spending the least amount of time in front of a screen, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises children younger than 24 months to avoid almost all digital media outside video chats.
Between ages 2 and 5, the AAP notes that children can benefit from watching small amounts of high-quality educational TV — for no more than one hour per day — alongside an adult who can answer questions and keep them engaged, a practice called co-watching.
“A lot of what children get out of watching TV changes with their developmental abilities,” said Miriam E. Bar-on, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “A child who is in the process of learning how to talk isn’t going to benefit from watching TV unless somebody is watching TV with them and interacting. ‘Sesame Street’ says, ‘Let’s count,’ and the person watching with the child counts with the child and has the interaction, then it becomes an interactive activity.”
After the age of 5, the right amount of TV can help stimulate imagination and creativity in children, according to Bar-on. But if screen time becomes excessive, routinely surpassing four hours day, it has been heavily linked with a greater chance of childhood obesity.
“If a child is just plunked in front of a TV,” Bar-on said, “he or she is not running around getting exercise.”
The AAP has also found that content matters: The more violent or risky behaviours (e.g., smoking) a child is exposed to, the more likely they are to engage in it themselves over the course of their life.
WHAT ARE SOME ALTERNATIVES?
Doctors agree that staying physically and mentally active are the most important keys to good at-home health during the lockdown.
“The evidence would suggest that if you are watching TV, get up and take lots of breaks in between and try to engage in other stimulating activities,” Hoang said.
Or use your free time to do something that can’t be found on your TV screen.
“Activities such as playing games, reading, creative activities such as music or art, crosswords, volunteering and social engagement can all be mentally stimulating,” Fancourt said.
Tribune News Service
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