Newswise — As the TV Turnoff Network prepares to promote National TV Turnoff Week, which takes place from April 25 through May 1, journalist and Harvard-trained family physician Susan Okie, author of the new book FED UP! Winning the War Against Childhood Obesity, speaks out about the benefits of participating in TV Turnoff Week ... and in turning off your TV more often throughout the entire year.
"Carefully limiting your child's 'screen time' is one of the most effective things you can do as a parent to reduce your children's obesity risk," Okie explains. "This isn't just speculation. A double-blind, randomized trial by Stanford University researchers found that reducing the amount of time that kids spent weekly watching TV was associated with lower obesity rates."
The problem, Okie points out, is serious. "Today's kids may be the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The cause for that startling fact is obesity."
According to the TV Turnoff Network, on average children in the U.S. will spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school (900 hours) this year. Knowing that, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the television is likely a significant contributor to our nation's childhood obesity epidemic. In her new book, FED UP!, Okie goes into detail about how reducing your child's screen time—which includes their time in front of a computer—can help fight the obesity epidemic.
"Turning off the TV probably works in multiple ways to protect kids from unhealthy weight gain," Okie explains. "It makes them more likely to be physically active. It may help to limit the kind of 'unconscious' snacking that many kids do while watching TV. And it reduces their exposure to commercials for high-calorie food and drink products."
She calls on more parents to employ television monitors, devices that can be hooked up to your television or computer and set to only allow the device to be on for a certain number of hours per week. Once the time runs out, the child is prevented from watching additional television.
Another important strategy for parents looking to limit their child's TV time? According to Okie, "Never put a television set in a child's bedroom!"
About FED UP! by Susan Okie
FED UP! is an eye-opening chronicle that addresses the complex challenge presented by the growing rates of childhood obesity. Based in part on the Institute of Medicine's ground-breaking (and headline making) report on childhood obesity (Preventing Childhood Obesity), this new book provides in-depth background on the issue; shares moving and instructive case studies that illustrate just how serious and widespread the problem is; and gives honest, authoritative, science-based advice that constitutes our best weapon in this critical battle.
Okie takes the IOM's recommendations and, together with her own research, explains to parents the physiological, psychological, and social underpinnings of the childhood obesity epidemic and the influence that these interdependent factors—many under the very noses of parents—have on children from their time in utero to throughout their teen years. By understanding how these influences play upon one another, parents will be armed and ready to make the right personal decisions when it comes to ensuring the health, welfare, and future of their children.
In the end, FED UP! advocates a combination of healthy eating and healthy living and presents the obesity epidemic in terms that parents can understand and do something about. Parents everywhere will benefit in a practical way from Okie's powerful, thought-provoking stories of those who are fighting the epidemic—children, parents, teachers, and school officials, all of whom offer views that help readers understand what is at stake and what to do about it.
About Susan Okie
Susan Okie is a family physician and an award-winning medical journalist. While a student at Harvard Medical School in the 1970's, she began writing about medicine and health for the Washington Post. She has spent most of her career at that newspaper, covering local and national medical news, reporting for three years from Africa, and serving as the national science editor. She recently became a Washington-based contributing editor with the New England Journal of Medicine, writing about medical and health issues. Okie lives with her husband and two sons in Bethesda, Maryland.