A psychologist is claiming that the television is “the greatest unacknowledged health threat of our time” with 15 separate risks to couch potato children.
He believes youngsters under three should watch no television at all and parents should banish all TV sets from bedrooms.
In a report in a science journal, Dr Sigman lists 15 ways that exposure to TV screens can harm youngsters.
These include raised risk of obesity and heart disease due to higher cholesterol and hormonal changes that disrupt sleep and even lower immunity.
Among other potential hazards are short attention spans and learning problems.
Dr Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, told MPs yesterday that ministers should TV viewing should be rationed with a system of “recommended daily allowances”, similar to guidelines for salt intake.
Children aged three to seven should be limited to 30 minutes to one hour a day while seven to 12-year-olds should watch an hour a day.
This can be upped to one-and-a-half hours for 12 to 15-year-olds and two hours for over-16s.
THESE are the 15 harmful effects of TV on children:
• Obesity. A result of little exercise.
• Disrupted hormones. Light from televisions suppresses production of the key hormone melatonin.
• Lowered immune system.
• Reduced melatonin may increase the chance of mutations in cell DNA, which causes cancer.
• Premature puberty. Also linked to low levels of melatonin.
• Sleep disorders. Over-stimulating the senses causes sleeplessness.
• Autism. Linked to a lack of social interaction.
• Increased body fat. Altered levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin produce fat and boost appetite.
Everything in moderation is okay. Dr. Sigman found that by the time kids reach adolescence they spent an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a TV screen. He wants excessive screen media to be considered a major public health issue and feels that reducing television viewing must become the new priority for child health.
“Most of the damage linked to television screen viewing seems to occur beyond watching one to one-and-a-half hours per day, irrespective of the quality of the programme, yet the average child watches three to five times this amount.” Dr. Sigman