Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Health Wise

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Health Wise

Article excerpt

Unplug to Power Up

The average U.S. teen spends seven hours and 38 minutes a day--more than 53 hours a week--watching TV or using a computer, mobile device, or video game, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research (Kaiser Family Foundation 2010). That's more time than students spend in school each week. And it's nearly four times the screen time that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends, which is less than two hours a day (see "On the web").

"Studies have linked heavy media use to lower grades and childhood obesity," says Mary Lou Gavin, MD, medical editor for KidsHealth.org.

Part of the problem is merely a matter of time. With eyes glued to screens for 7.5 hours, teens simply don't have enough hours in the day for school, homework, being active, participating in extracurricular activities, socializing, and sleeping.

Just do the math:

  7.5 hours of screen time
+ 8 hours in a school day
+ 1 hour of exercise (AAP
  recommendation for teens)
+ 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep
  (National Sleep Foundation
  recommendation for teens)
= 25 to 25.5 hours

That tally doesn't even include:

* Doing homework

* Participating in extracurricular activities

* Spending time with friends and family

For too many teens, those screen-time hours take the place of exercising and getting adequate sleep (see the November 2012 Health Wise column on sleep and the February 2013 Health Wise column on exercise).

Classroom activity

With National Screen-Free Week (see "On the web") set for April 29-May 5 this year, March is a great time to talk about the health and academic consequences related to excessive screen time and the potential benefits of turning off the TV, mobile devices, video games, and computers.

To avoid focusing on negatives, usually a turn-off for teens, have your students write about the top 10 ways mobile device technology has changed the world for the better. CNN's "Our Mobile Society" coverage is a good place to start their research (see "On the web").

Use their reports to spark a classroom discussion and come to a consensus on the top three ways mobile devices have made the world a better place. …

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