Bedroom TVs Linked to Fatter Kids

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

Obesity in Kids

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

June 3, 2002 -- Parents may want to think twice before putting a television in their child's bedroom. A new study shows that young children who have a TV set in their bedroom are more likely to be overweight and spend more time watching television and videos than other children.

Over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity among both children and adults has increased dramatically, prompting the U.S. government and international health organizations to warn of an epidemic of obesity. But although previous research has already linked excessive TV viewing to an increased risk of obesity among older children, this study is the first to look at the issue in young children, between 1 and 5 years old.

The report, which appears in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, looked at the viewing habits of the children of 2,761 low-income adults in New York. The parents completed surveys with questions about how much television or videos their preschool aged children watched and whether the child had a TV set in their bedroom.

Almost 40% of the children involved in the study had a television in their bedroom. Those who did were not only more likely to be overweight, but they also watched an average of 4.6 more hours of television a week compared with kids who did not have a TV set in their bedroom.

Researchers say their findings may actually underestimate this problem because parents may not be fully aware of how much TV their child is watching behind closed doors.

The study also showed that the risk of a child being overweight increased for each additional hour of television or video viewing per day, whether or not they had a TV set in the bedroom. And researchers found more children are watching television at a disturbingly early age.

"Only 20% of the 1-year-old children did not watch TV/videos, whereas 25% of 1-year-old children averaged [more than] 2 hours a day, despite recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that TV viewing be discouraged for this age group," writes study author Barbara A. Dennison, MD, of Columbia University, and colleagues.

In addition, the amount of TV and videos that the children watched was strongly related to demographic factors. Black children spent the most time watching television or videos, and white children spent the least time.

The study authors say more research is needed to determine if reducing television viewing and/or pulling the plug on TV sets in children's room will have an effect on reducing the growing problem of childhood obesity.

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