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Ill effects of watching Television
Dr Naresh Trehan
Television Addicts

Television programmes for children began in the sixties and rapidly became popular. A big leap in the viewing time was seen after the advent of animation and cable television in the next decades. Soon, television became a popular means of entertainment, replacing outdoor sports and other recreational activities.

Television was found to be a powerful communication medium and it began to be exploited by the industry for advertising and influencing the impressionable human mind. Anything is good in moderation and not surprisingly, excess TV viewing was found to be associated with several psychological and behavioral problems in children. It was found that too much depiction of violence on the screen was associated with desensitization and aggressiveness in children. Systematic studies subsequently revealed increased prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a serious disorder leading to poor performance in school, in children who regularly watched TV. Eye strain is another well known problem associated with watching TV from close, in dimly lit rooms and for long hours, which is increasingly being encountered in children.

Obesity is the current epidemic involving almost the entire globe and the roots go down deep into childhood. Watching TV is associated with reduced physical activity, tendency to eat without realizing the appetite, and signals of sleep deprivation. All this leads to increased weight since childhood which is the harbinger of other chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, liver disease, gallstones, reproductive problems in women and cancer. In a study conducted in Delhi in 2005-2006, the prevalence of obesity in school going teenaged children had increased by almost ten percent over a short period of two years and almost a quarter of children suffered from metabolic syndrome - a strong predictor of diabetes and heart disease in the long run. Increased prosperity was associated with increased prevalence of obesity since the problem was seen more often in public schools as compared to the government schools.

While television viewing is likely to become more and more attractive what with the advent of bigger screens, professional advertising and extremely interesting programmes throughout the day, the onus of preventing our children from succumbing to this lies with us parents. It is high time parents got off the couch, took time off from their busy schedules and took note of the “problem of plenty” brewing in their homes. A good solution is to spend more time with children and get involved in playing outdoor games, which will be beneficial to both, and create a healthy society.
Dr Naresh Trehan is Senior Consultant - Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Apollo Indraprastha, New Delhi.