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Summer Warning to Parents: iPods + MySpace + TV + Video Games + Cell Phones + Tivo = Weight Gain for Kids

It's no wonder that the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen is directly linked to their risk of being obese. Advertising works.
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Parents probably don't need any reminding, but summer is practically here -- and with it will come hours of free time for kids.

In a world where kids already spend an average of 45 hours per week with the media -- more than twice as much time as they spend with their parents -- it's a pretty safe bet that a good chunk of that free time will be filled with television, video games, cell phones, the Internet...and maybe some unwanted weight.

A study released earlier this year found that kids actually gain weight over the summer, drawing into question the assumption that kids spend the warmer months playing outdoors.

It's an unfortunate truth, but obesity has become an epidemic for kids in this country. The rate of childhood obesity among kids 6 to 11 has tripled over the past three decades; today, nearly one in five 6- to 11-year-olds is obese. And there's no doubt that media use is a big part of this equation.

Considering that the average American child will see more than 40,000 ads on broadcast television alone each year, and that 83 percent of the food ads in kids' shows are for fast food and sweets, it's no wonder that the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen is directly linked to their risk of being obese. Advertising works. The food and beverage industry wouldn't spend more than $10 billion each year targeting kids if it didn't. Ads for fast food get kids to eat fast food. Ads for candy get kids to eat candy. You don't have to look any further than American kids' expanding waistlines for evidence of that.

The fact is that media plays a tremendous role in kids' social, emotional, and physical development, in both positive and negative ways. The tricky part for us as parents is to make sure that kids get the best out of media and avoid the worst. The end of the school year provides a good opportunity for parents to sit down with their kids and set some ground rules for summer media use. For some suggestions about how to help keep kids' media use healthy this summer, check out these tips from www.commonsense.com.