October 11, 2010
NEW YORK — More than two hours a day spent watching television or playing computer games could put a child at greater risk for psychological problems, suggests a new study.
British researchers found the effect held regardless of how active kids were during the rest of the day.
“We know that physical activity is good for both physical and mental health in children and there is some evidence that screen viewing is associated with negative behaviors,” lead researcher Dr. Angie Page of the University of Bristol told Reuters Health in an e-mail. “But it wasn’t clear whether having high physical activity levels would ‘compensate’ for high levels of screen viewing in children.”
Page and her colleagues studied more than 1,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 11. Over seven days, the children filled out a questionnaire reporting how much time they spent daily in front of a television or computer and answering questions describing their mental state — including emotional, behavioral, and peer-related problems. Meanwhile, an accelerometer measured their physical activity.
The odds of significant psychological difficulties were about 60 percent higher for children spending longer than two hours a day in front of either screen compared with kids exposed to less screen time, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. For children with more than two hours of both types of screen time during the day, the odds more than doubled.
The effect was seen regardless of sex, age, stage of puberty, or level of educational or economic deprivation.
Psychological problems further increased if kids fell short of an hour of moderate to rigorous daily exercise in addition to the increased screen time. However, physical activity did not appear to compensate for the psychological consequences of screen time.
Give kids screen-time budget
The researchers also found that sedentary time itself was not related to mental wellbeing. “It seems more like what you are doing in that sedentary time that is important,” said Page, noting the lack of negative effect found for activities such as reading and doing homework.
Page and her team acknowledge several limitations in their study, including the potential for a kid to inaccurately recall his or her activities when filling out the questionnaire.
Dr. Thomas N. Robinson of the Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said the new research was not enough to decipher whether the relationship between screen time and psychological wellbeing was truly cause-and-effect.
“They would have needed to do an experiment, a randomized controlled trial, to see whether limiting television or computer time improves psychological difficulties when compared to a control group that does not limit screen time,” he told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Robinson noted that his own related research, conducted in this way, found that limiting screen time reduced weight gain, aggression and consumer behaviors in kids.
“There are already lots of reasons to reduce kids’ screen time and this is potentially another,” said Robinson. “In our studies we find that giving children a screen-time budget and helping them stick to that budget is the most effective way to reduce their television, video game, computer and other screen time, and to improve their health as a result.”
He usually aims for a budget of about an hour per day, or a reduction of at least 50 percent from a kid’s starting screen time.
“Parents as well as kids tell us that budgeting kids’ screen time has profound positive effects on their families’ lives,” added Robinson.
April 5, 2010
By Rebecca Camber
Police are secretly photographing up to 14million motorists a day and keeping their details for years, it has emerged. Images of drivers and their front seat passengers are being captured by a network of cameras and held on a database without their knowledge, a police document has revealed.
Now police chiefs are facing a legal challenge from privacy campaigners, who say that automatic number plate recognition cameras are being used to spy on innocent road users.
Police and the Highways Agency have previously claimed that ANPR cameras on the roads do not transmit images of drivers.
But internal guidelines produced by the National Policing Improvement Agency show that in some areas ANPR ‘routinely captures the faces of front-seat occupants’.
According to the document, the images are held on a database in Hendon, North London, for at least two years – without drivers’ knowledge or permission.
The civil rights group Liberty is now planning to launch a High Court privacy action against police chiefs.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the database of images had ‘no legislative basis’.
The ANPR network was established in 2006 and is now linked to more than 10,000 CCTV cameras.
It transmits data at five minute intervals to police and motoring agencies.
Officers are alerted if a vehicle is associated with a criminal so that they can track and intercept it.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘ANPR is a valuable tool to protect us against serious crime and terrorism.
‘But you just can’t have a database on this scale without proper accountability and safeguards.’
Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ ANPR user group, said: ‘By denying criminals use of the roads, the police will be better able to enforce the law and prevent and detect crime.’
March 24, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By Jennifer Corbett Dooren
A new study shows women need 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day to prevent weight gain as they age if they consume a normal diet.
The findings suggest women need more exercise than the current federal guidelines of 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes five days a week, of moderate-to-intense activity.
The study is being published in the March 24/31 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“I don’t want people to throw up their hands and say ‘I can’t do it,’ ” said I. Min Lee, the study’s lead researcher and a doctor and associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Women at a normal weight who consume a normal diet can beat middle-age weight gain by working out intensely for 30 minutes a day, whether by running, cycling, swimming laps or working out at a gym. Weight gain can also be prevented with 60 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, a leisurely bike ride or playing catch.
The federal guidelines of 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-intense exercise are designed to prevent disease and obtain other health benefits. However, a 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine suggested 60 minutes a day, or 420 minutes a week, are needed to prevent weight gain.
Dr. Lee said because the basis of IOM’s findings have been questioned, she and other researchers decided to look at the issue within the group of women participating in the federal Women’s Health Study. She also said the goal was to look at women who weren’t dieting and were consuming a normal diet to see what impact physical activity has on weight.
The study looked at 34,079 healthy U.S. women who consumed a usual diet from 1992 to 2007. The women were all age 45 or older at the start, with an average age of 54. They were given a questionnaire about the amount of exercise or activity they engaged in per week at the start of the study and then at three-year intervals. Their activity was tracked for an average of 13 years while weight changes were tracked over a three-year period.
Overall, women gained an average of 5.7 pounds in the study. However, those who were normal weight, with a body-mass index of less than 25, maintained their weight if they exercised for 60 minutes a day. Women who exercised less generally gained weight. Dr. Lee said for overweight or obese women, 60 minutes of exercise a day wasn’t enough to maintain weight, suggesting calories need to be cut.