Children, especially girls, are reaching puberty at alarmingly younger ages every year. This is a major problem, since with longer lives and more education, most women want to put off having children to a later age than ever before. The sexualizing of children has been blamed on too much sex on TV?but now researchers have found that even watching wholesome family fare can bring on early puberty.

Gaia Vince writes in New Scientist that this is because children who watch a lot of TV produce less melatonin, the sleep hormone that has been linked to the onset of puberty.Scientists at the University of Florence found that when kids were kept away from TV, computers and video games, their melatonin production increased by about 30%.

“Girls are reaching puberty much earlier than in the 1950s. One reason is due to their average increase in weight; but another may be due to reduced levels of melatonin,” says researcher Roberto Salti. “Animal studies have shown that low melatonin levels have an important role in promoting an early onset of puberty.”

It’s thought that long exposure to artificial light reduces the body’s production of melatonin, while regular alternating periods of natural sunlight and darkness increases it. Children whose bodies contain more melatonin will reach puberty at a later age. Melatonin levels may also account for the increased rate of breast cancer in women who work the night shift.

Another reason for early puberty in children who watch a lot of TV may be that they weigh more, since they do not get enough exercise, and increased weight also leads to early puberty. Researcher Alessandra Graziottin says, “U.S. studies have shown that the greater the exposure to television, the earlier the age of sexual experience, including teenage pregnancies.”

Changing the channel won’t work?make the kids go out and play.

If the problem is weight, help your kids get a new body and spiritual growth, all at the same time.

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