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Children and Teens
In the News...

Using technology can help enforce home rules on computer and TV time
A recent study found that using an electric governor on computers and TVs provided an absolute enforcement of kids' TV and computer time. Researchers found that using electronic governors on TVs and computers not only reduced television viewing and computer use, but also appeared to play an important role in improving weight control in young children. Electronic monitoring systems appear to take the decision out of parents' hands and put an end to the pleading and manipulation that can occur. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting television viewing to no more than two hours per day for children age two years and older and no television for younger children. MedPageToday/Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, March 2008

Children's language development may suffer from early exposure to DVDs and videos
In a recent study, infants ages eight to 16 months did worse on language development testing when exposed to daily baby DVD/video viewing tapes. For infants ages eight to 16 months, every hour of daily baby DVD/video viewing was associated with a nearly 17-point decrease in scores on an assessment of communication skills, according to a report in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. No adverse effect was seen in children ages 17 to 24 months. Regular reading and storytelling had a positive influence on language development in infants age eight to 16 months. Journal of Pediatrics, August 2007

Oral piercing is a risky fashion trend
Piercing has become increasingly popular in Western industrialized nations, but many young people with oral piercings don't realize that there are alarming side effects to this particular form of body art.

Dentists are seeing frequent and predictable serious, permanent damage to the teeth and gums of those wearing jewelry from oral piercing. Chipped teeth, chronic tooth sensitivity, chronic nerve pain, and serious gum disease with subsequent loss of teeth are typical sequelae of a metal foreign body moving around in the mouth. Jewelry in the mouth can easily get pulled and lacerate soft tissue, often times requiring surgical repair. In general, the longer the metal is in the mouth, the more likely permanent damage will be done.

Medical practitioners are also reporting serious complications associated with oral piercing, some of which are life-threatening. Endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart) and cellulitis of the floor of the mouth have been reported in teens with oral jewelry. Aspirated jewelry has occured with airway obstruction and swallowed jewelry can cause significant damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

For any type of body piercing, there is always a risk of contracting a contagious disease from improper sterilization techniques. Most procedures in the United States are being performed by unlicensed, and unregulated individuals. Transmission of viral hepatitis and HIV have been associated with piercing. The newer vaccination recommendations for children in the United States for hepatitis B may decrease the risk of this disease; however, other blood-borne viral pathogens such as tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis C and HIV remain major concerns. Tongue piercing: impact of time and barbell stem length on lingual gingival recession and tooth chipping
J Periodontol, 2002

Piercing has been around for a long time. It has been used in religious and cultural ceremonies and is common in some cultures around the world. For many of today's American youth, piercings are fashion statements. Like tattoos, daring clothing, and extreme hair styles, piercing may be a badge of identity, a form of self-expression, or a personal declaration of independence. In some, body piercing can signal an urge to push social limits and to take risks. Risk-taking can be a growth experience, but the key is to take the right kind of risk. In other words taking part in activities that build ability, awareness, and character instead of developing a pattern of dangerous or self-destructive behavior.

Piercing has also been thought to be a variant of self-mutilation, along with other increasingly popular forms of body modification such as decorative scarification, tattooing, and branding. Some individuals who have suffered some form of physical or sexual abuse in the past have expressed a sense of empowerment after obtaining a pierce, cut, tattoo, or brand in a nonviolent environment. The act of self-mutilation has been described as a means of reducing tension via a relaxation response that occurs after the event. (Body Piercing, Journal of General Internal Medicine, June 1999)

Since the large majority of those with oral piercings are teens and young adults, cessation efforts are needed to target this population. Health care professionals need to be able to recognize and treat complications related to body piercing but to also identify treatable psychological illness. Tongue piercing: a concern for the dentist Gen Dentistry, 1997
HIV transmission from body piercing, Clin Infect Dis. 1998 Mar;26(3):767-8.

November 2006
A recent Harvard study of adolescents finds that violent video games stir up the brain's emotional-response center while reducing activity in regions linked to self-control
In this study, the researchers randomly assigned 44 adolescents to play either a violent video game or a nonviolent video game for 30 minutes. They then had the adolescents undergo functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans while performing tasks that measured concentration and inhibition. fMRI measures real-time changes that occur when the brain is active. Compared to children who weren't playing a violent video game, kids who played these games had more activation in the amygdala, a brain area closely linked to emotional arousal. At the same time, their brains showed a reduced activation in prefrontal brain areas involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control.

This is the first study that has demonstrated the affects on brain physiology from violent video games. The findings raise significant concern that these types of video games are not only having adverse effects on the brain, but on behavior as well. The researchers recommended that parents need to be vigilant regarding the media they are letting into their homes. Video games accounted for $10 billion in sales in the United States last year. Medline Plus

April 2006
Goth subculture found to have highest risk for suicide and self-mutilation
In a recent study from the University of Glasgow, more than half of 19-year-olds who self-identified as Goth reported self-harming behavior, and nearly half reported a suicide attempt. For comparison, the rate of self-harming behavior among the general youth population in the United Kingdom is 7% to 14%, and the rate of suicide attempts is about 6%. In this study, other youth subcultures, such as Punk and Mosher, were also associated with self-harm, but the link was strongest for Goth.

Self-harming behavior is a dysfunctional coping strategy intended to relieve unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, frustration, or guilt. Whether Goth culture leads to self-destructive behavior or whether adolescents with those tendencies gravitate to Goth, was not entirely clear to the investigators. However the findings revealed that more reported self-harm before, rather than after, becoming a Goth, which suggests that young people with a tendency to self-harm are attracted to the Goth subculture. The researchers speculated that "rather than posing a risk, it's also possible that by belonging to this subculture young people are gaining valuable social and emotional support from their peers." Brittish Medical Journal

--Written by N Thompson, ARNP Last updated August 2007

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