Letters to the editor

October 04, 2003

Cut back on kids' TV

To the editor:

Here's one more reason to unplug your kids' TV, video games, and yes even their computers and send them outside to play: It's good for their bones.

New research out of Children's Hospital in Boston shows that one in four adolescents is vitamin D deficient - a vitamin critical to the calcium absorption that is so important for building healthy bones. Kids get vitamin D through fortified foods, such as milk, but they also get it by spending time in the sunlight. The lead researcher, pediatric endocrinologist Catherine Gordon, doesn't know exactly why so many of the adolescents in the study are vitamin D deficient, but she feels it might have something to do with how much time they spend inside looking at a screen.

Studies at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania have found that children's homes are filled with screens and children's time is heavily devoted to looking at them. The average child spends 4 1/2 hours a day watching TV, surfing the Web and playing video games.


Certainly when they were young and watching educational television, my kids learned about their numbers and the alphabet. And even now, my teen has shown curiosity about the inner workings of government after watching "The West Wing" with me.

But some research suggests that watching lots of television can cause weight problems among kids and that children connect with all sorts of unsavory people on-line. This latest study gives me one more thing to fret about - the strength of their bones. When it comes to Vitamin D, ensuring bone health might be as simple as replacing 30 minutes of screen time with 30 minutes in the sunshine. Replace screen time with park time. Most also have Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and Police Athletic Leagues whose sole mission is to help children find healthy ways to spend their free time.

We can set up guidelines for how our children should use media in the home. First, limit how much time your child spends looking at a screen (most experts, including pediatricians, recommend no more than two hours a day). Second, don't let kids do more than one thing while they are watching TV or playing videogames. Third, you'll have better control of your kids' TV viewing if you take the TV out of the kids' bedrooms.

Finally, and most importantly, pay attention to your own media use. Our studies show that parents who watch a lot of TV have kids who watch a lot of TV. By keeping a check on how much time we spend with media, we may just find we're improving the health of the whole family.

Amy Jordan
Pennsylania University

Net needed to protect kids

To the editor:

To the Maryland State Highway Administration director for the office of bridge development:

We would like to inform you about an event that took place on Monday evening, Sept. 15, at about 5:45 p.m. Each soccer season, since 1999, Williamsport Youth Soccer Club has organized up to 20 youth soccer teams that play at River Bottom Park in Williamsport.

Our fields are situated at the juncture of two fabulous waterways (the Potomac River and the Conococheague Creek) beside a historic C&O Canal Aqueduct. U.S. 11 crosses above these soccer fields on a bridge that spans the Potomac River connecting Williamsport to Falling Waters, W.Va.

On the aforementioned evening, two teams were assembled, on the fields just below this bridge, when a glass wine cooler bottle landed approximately 10 feet from two of our coaches and some of our 7 to 9-year-old players.

A senseless act by some passerby (flinging a wine bottle from a car window) could have very well ended the life of an unsuspecting volunteer coach or an innocent child.

Thankfully, the bottle hit nothing but the ground. However, this is not an isolated incident. No person or group of persons can put an end to these types of senseless acts. However; we do ask for some action toward devising a method to install a barrier (fence, strong netting, etc.) on the bridge at the areas where the U.S. 11 traffic travels directly over our soccer fields. We know that much deliberation and planning must commence prior to the construction of such a barrier to protect our children.

However, we feel that some action must be taken, starting right here. Please carefully consider this issue. We look forward to seeing the results!

Timothy W. Bryan
Williamsport Soccer Club

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