Health Team

TV time can hurt children's eyes, heart health

Posted April 22, 2011 12:03 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2011 7:25 p.m. EDT

New research shows that too much time watching TV and playing video games can take a toll on the health of children's eyes and hearts.

Francesca Ceda pushes her 10-year-old son, Arturo, to play outside. He loves watching TV and playing video games, though, so it can be a struggle to get him outside.

"I have to pull him away sometimes because he'll sit there all day, every day,'" Ceda said.

"I usually say, 'Just let me finish watching this last part, and then I'll do something else,'" Arturo said.

A new study shows that children spend more time than ever in front of TV and computer screens, and that can damage their long-term health.

Researchers found that children who spend more time sitting and less time playing have smaller blood vessels in their eyes. That restricts blood flow, which could eventually lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The eye's blood vessels don't shrink from watching TV, but simply from sitting too much and not moving enough, doctors said.

"Watching television isn't necessarily bad for your eyes, but it's taking away time that you should be exercising and getting your blood flowing," said Dr. Jessica Sessions, with Ryan Community Health Network in New York.

A little exercise can make a big difference. Researchers found that children who are active for more than an hour a day can have significantly wider blood vessels in their eyes.

"I think the message is parents need to get their children out. They need to be more active, and they need to limit the amount of screen time they have each day," Sessions said.

Ceda said she's gotten that message and will work even harder to get Arturo out and about.