This month's postings, July 2009

Eww tube
Babies watching TV equals a bad idea. Convinced yet? Researchers have long known that tube time for tots can result in language delays and attention problems, but they weren’t sure why — until now. A new study from Seattle Children’s Research Institute finds that when the TV is on, adults aren’t talking to their babies; in fact, for every hour an infant watches TV, he hears 770 fewer words. And hearing fewer words means learning fewer words. “Television is not only a poor caregiver substitute, but it actually reduces the number of language sounds and words babies hear, vocalize and therefore learn. We are increasingly technologizing infancy, which may prove harmful to the next generation of adults,” says lead researcher Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., M.P.H.

A huge, new worldwide study is food for thought for fans of co-sleeping. Researchers at St. Joseph’s University in Pittsburgh studied data on more than 29,000 infants and toddlers from 17 countries, including the United States, China, Australia, Canada, Korea and Japan, and found that children who slept in a separate room from their parents got more sleep, woke less at night, had less difficulty at bedtime, fell asleep faster and were perceived as having fewer sleep problems. One possible reason: Kids who sleep alone are better able to fall asleep independently when they awaken during the night. Watch for much more on co-sleeping in our August issue!

Midnight blue
Not to harp on the zzzz’s thing, but there is more big news about sleep: Teens who stay up until after midnight on school nights have a much higher chance of being depressed — or suicidal (!) — than teens whose parents demand an earlier bedtime. In fact, those night owls are 42 percent more likely to be depressed, and 30 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts, than middle- and high-schoolers who hit the hay by 10 p.m. The National Institutes of Health says teens need just as much sleep as younger kids — about nine hours! — but tend to blow it off for other things, like hitting the books, hitting Facebook and texting. How depressing.

C’mon, get happy!
“Give me 20 minutes, I’ll give you a better day!” That’s what your dusty exercise bike has been trying to tell you, and it’s also the conclusion of a new study from the University of Vermont. In short: People who work out at moderate intensity for just 20 minutes are happier for a full 12 hours afterwards. Twenty minutes? That just could be doable!

Surf or sex?
What if you had to choose between two weeks without the Internet or two weeks without sex? A huge survey by Intel finds that nearly half of women — 46 percent — would put the kibosh on the coitus. Only 30 percent of men would do the same. Surprising? Maybe not!

Service station
A huge boost for homeless families in our area: Family Services’ brand-new, bright and shiny Rotary Support Center for Families has just opened. The $16.5 million, three-story facility, located on Seattle’s Rainier Avenue South, gives Family Services a central location for the first time in its more than 100-year history. That means less schlepping around town for homeless moms and dads with kids in tow. Spokeswoman Patricia Gray says the new center has “the potential to change the lives of families and children for generations to come.”

—Kristen Russell Dobson

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