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Children’s TV ‘is linked to cancer, autism, dementia’

Fergus Sheppard, The Scotsman
· Study shows ill-effects of TV more wide-ranging than initially thought
· Quantity of TV and age of children viewing key elements of study
· Time in front of computer screens also part of problem
IT HAS long been blamed for creating a nation of couch potatoes. But a new report today claims that Britain’s love affair with television is causing far more damage – both physically and psychologically – than previously thought.

The findings have been compiled by Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist who has previously written about the effects of television on the viewer. His report, analysing 35 different scientific studies carried out into television and its effect on the viewer, has identified 15 negative effects he claims can be blamed on watching television.

Among the most disturbing findings are the links he claims to have found between long hours of television viewing and cancer, autism and Alzheimer’s.

The effects on children watching TV have been well publicised in Britain. Fears of a timebomb of obesity have sparked a wave of ministerial initiatives to promote sport and tackle the couch-potato lifestyle.

However, today’s report suggests the consequences of television are far more serious. They range from myopia and attention deficit disorder to diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and a generation whose brains are being numbed by on-screen imagery.
(19 Feb 2007)

Scientific evidence: TV rots the brain, ruins the body

Aric Sigman, Guardian
The evidence is incontrovertible: television rots the brain and ruins the body. We should see TV for what it is – the biggest public health threat of our time.
While controversy continues to surround the way the content of screen media affects our thoughts and behaviour, I have just reviewed a growing body of empirical evidence for the academic journal Biologist indicating that watching television causes physiological changes, and not for the better. Most of these effects occur irrespective of the type of programme people watch – whether it’s Reservoir Dogs or the Teletubbies. It is the medium, not the message.

Reviewing 35 studies in well-respected scientific and medical journals, I identified 15 biological and cognitive effects linked to levels of television exposure. There was a dose-response relationship: both the average number of hours watched and the age at which a child begins watching television are central to the association with negative effects later on.

Those effects include alterations in activity, size and consistency of skin immune cells, an independent cause of obesity, changes in the endocrine and immune system, links with premature puberty in girls, subverting brain cell development underlying attention and impulse control, reducing cerebral blood flow and brain stimulation, sleeping disorders at all ages even from passive viewing, body-fat production, abnormal glucose metabolism and new Type 2 diabetes, a possible trigger for autism, lowered metabolic rate, raised blood cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular illness and death, substantial increases in child myopia. Most of these effects begin to appear at viewing levels far below the national average.
(20 Feb 2007)
Related from the Washington Post: Goodbye to Girlhood: “As Pop Culture Targets Ever Younger Girls, Psychologists Worry About a Premature Focus on Sex and Appearance.”

Malaysia to confine foreign workers

Staff, The Brunei Times
MALAYSIA will soon introduce a foreign workers bill which proposes confining foreigners to their work premises under constant monitoring to prevent rising crime, a top minister said yesterday.
Home Affairs Minister Mohamad Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said the foreign workers bill would provide legislation to oversee Malaysia’s 2.6 million foreign workers and ensure they “do not go astray “. Mohamad Radzi said the bill required employers “to provide proper accommodations at the workplace, where it is properly monitored, where they have systems to ensure that the workers do not go astray”. “If they do go out anywhere, there is some sort of a procedure involved,” Mohamad Radzi told reporters. ..

Asked if the government agreed to the practise of foreign workers having to register with their employers if they wished to go out during breaks or days off, Radzi said it was one of the items recommended in the bill…
(19 Feb 2007)

Endangered languages encode plant and animal knowledge

Gaia Vince, New Scientist
Saving indigenous languages from extinction is the only way to preserve traditional knowledge about plants and animals that have yet to be discovered by Western scientists, says a linguist and cultural expert.

More than half of the word’s 7000 languages are endangered, because they consist of an unsustainably small – and declining – speaker base. Each language death represents a significant erosion of human knowledge about local plant and animal life that was acquired over many centuries, says David Harrison at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, US.

Information about local ecosystems is so intricately woven into these languages that it cannot be replaced simply through translation, he explains. The indigenous taxonomy alone can provide a huge range of information about species, which young speakers in these tribes acquire instantly through learning the name.
(19 Feb 2007)