Montana State University

"Screen time" may be hindering your family's health; Meet April 2 to learn more

March 31, 2008

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An April 2 meeting will focus on what research shows are the effects of computer and TV viewing's on health and especially on childhood brain development, and then describe simple steps to improve family health and "screen time" quality.

The 7 p.m. meeting at Montana State University's Museum of the Rockies will feature Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and one of the authors of "The Elephant in the Living Room: Make television work for your kids."

While some of the most dramatic research in the book shows hampered childhood social and brain development following a few hours of daily television or even computer use, implications of the presentation are important for the whole family, says Cathy Costakis, the physical activity coordinator for the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program at MSU. That activity program and MSU's Department of Health and Human Development are sponsoring the program.

"Television can be a learning tool, but children learn much better from people than they do from watching any screen," Costakis said. "More importantly, research suggests that children need experiences in all three dimensions and using all five senses to make brain connections when they are under two years old."

Children over two or three are more able to relate what they see on television to real life, so after that age, watching quality television with adults who interact with them about the program can be appropriate for up to two hours a day, she said.

Besides authoring "The Elephant in the Living Room" with Frederick Zimmerman, Christakis also is the father of two children, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute. He has been featured in many major newspapers and television news programs.

The meeting April 2 is free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, call Costakis at (406) 994-5734, email her at Costakis@montana.edu or go to http://www.montananapa.org

Contact: Cathy Costakis (406) 994-5734 or costakis@montana.edu