Exercise win

Took a quick look at this Vox piece on whether you should walk or run for exercise (I enjoy both, actually).  Anyway, loved the big quote:


as I read and thought, “OMG– that’s me!”  Usually three times a week, sometimes four, and definitely a moderate pace.  Go me!  As for the answer… moderate running is somewhat better, but as with so much, the best is the one you can stick with.

Let your kids watch more TV

Sarah has not been feeling the greatest the past few days and has been absurdly cranky.  You know what works great for all of us?  Letting her watch shows on TV or the Ipad.  After a long day, sometimes we’ve really had all we can take of the kids.  You know what works great?  Letting them watch stuff.  Sometimes I work at home in the mornings and try and get some stuff done without getting too interrupted.  That’s right– more TV and Ipad.  And you know how guilty I feel about this?  Not quite zero, but pretty close.  Heck, when I was in elementary school I have vague memories of getting home and watching crap for just hours (Brady Bunch, Flintstones, Gilligan, etc.), but I turned out okay.  Obviously, you should spend a decent amount of time per day interacting with your kids.  And kids need to have time to explore and have pretend play.  But it’s also seems pretty clear that if you’ve got all that in place, even a few hours a day won’t hurt.  538’s Emily Oster summed up the research a while back:

When I was a kid, my parents had strict television rules: no more than an hour a day, and the content must be educational. This meant a lot of PBS. I did briefly convince my mother that the secret-agent show “MacGyver” was about science, but that boondoggle ended when she watched an episode with me. These restrictions seemed severe at the time, but my parents were just following the orders of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Children and teens should have no more than one to two hours of screen time per day, with children under 2 having no screen time at all. Those orders remain the same today.

Relative to my childhood, limits on screen time have become increasingly restrictive and confusing. The iPad (and Kindle, and various other tablets) has opened up a world of “educational” screen time. If my 4-year-old is doing a workbook on the iPad, does that mean she learns less than if we used a physical workbook? The AAP advocates for newspapers and physical books over iPads, computers and other screen options.

The AAP statement on media seems opposed to screens per se (quote: “young children learn best when they interact with people, not screens”) without really differentiating among various uses and types of screens. But, not surprisingly, when you look at the research, the screen matters less than what you do with it…

These are a small number of the many, many studies that show associations between time spent watching television and health and development outcomes. But all these studies have an obvious problem: the amount of TV children watch is not randomly assigned. In the general population, kids who watch a lot of TV — especially at young ages — tend to be poorer, are more likely to be members of minority groups and are more likely to have parents with less education. All these factors independently correlate with outcomes such as executive function, test scores and obesity, making it difficult to draw strong conclusions about the effects of television from this research.

Hello, selection bias!!  Bring that up anytime somebody comments on your child’s viewing habits.  Anyway, more:

There are a few studies with better designs, and these have mixed results. There does seem to be some evidence to suggest that lowering media consumption, including television, can help combat obesity in children (seehere and here for examples)…

The researchers find no evidence that more exposure to television at an early age negatively affected later test scores. The contemporary applicability of this research is subject to various concerns — television in the 1940s and ’50s differs from the TV of today, for example — but it does suggest that such concerns about test scores may be overblown.

A second set of concerns with television — and these extend to all other screen time — is that there is something inherently bad about exposure to a screen per se. There really isn’t anything in the research to make us think this is a concern. Even the AAP, the ultimate screen time naysayer, focuses in its warnings on attention and learning difficulties, obesity and risky behaviors resulting from screen time.

I think this paragraph from Oster really nails it:

To judge what impact TV has on children, we have to think about tradeoffs — what would kids be doing with their time if they weren’t watching television? There are 24 hours in a day. If your kid watches one less hour of TV, she does one hour more of something else. The AAP guidelines imply that this alternative activity is something more enriching: reading books with dad, running on the track, discussing current events with grandma, etc.

But a lot of kids and families may not use an additional hour in these ways. An hour of TV may be replaced by an hour of sitting around doing nothing, whining about being bored. Or, worse, being yelled at by an overtired parent who is trying to get dinner ready on a tight time frame. If letting your kids watch an hour of TV means you are better able to have a relaxed conversation at the dinner table, this could mean TV isn’t that bad for cognitive development. [emphasis mine] …

Similarly, it is easy to see why TV might not affect test scores. If the alternative use of an hour for most families is not in highly enriching parent engagement, television may be just fine.

I know that when my kids are watching the screen the alternative is definitely not some enriching activity.  It’s usually whiny kids or a whiny parent.  And you know what else, none of them show the least bit of signs of addiction of truly needing TV (though, my oldest definitely has a video game addiction which we monitor).

Meanwhile Jane Brody’s NYT column on “screen addiction” has lots of scary stats (yes, many kids do spend too much time per day with a screen), but also relies on a lot of studies which appear to be correlational.  And then the follow-up says it is basically your fault for being addicted to your screen.  You know what I used to do at the park?  Sit there bored while my kids had fun playing (sure, I could engage more, but I very much want all of them to learn to entertain themselves).  You know what I do at the park now?  Entertain myself on my smartphone while Sarah entertains herself with the equipment and other kids.  No apologies.


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