Just One Hour of TV Viewing Linked to Overweight in Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics already advises parents to restrict their kids’ and teens’ television viewing to two or fewer hours per day. But even that amount of daily screen time may be too much, says Mark D. DeBoer, MD, author of a new study linking television viewing time among preschool-age children and the subsequent risk of being overweight or obese by kindergarten.
In short, kids who spent just one to two hours daily viewing television during the preschool years were more likely to be overweight or obese by the time they entered kindergarten. In fact, the risk of being overweight was 50-60% greater among children who watched one to two hours of television daily, compared to kids who spent 30 minutes or less watching television.
”Given overwhelming evidence connecting the amount of time TV viewing and unhealthy weight, pediatricians and parents should attempt to restrict childhood TV viewing," said study author Mark D. DeBoer, MD, MSc, MCR, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia. The data are so compelling that DeBoer thinks the American Academy of Pediatrics should lower its “TV viewing allowances”. These are guidelines that recommend limiting viewing time to two hours per day. But even that small amount of time spent watching the boob tube appears to confer significant risk of overweight and obesity. Surprisingly, computer use was not associated with the relative risk of overweight/obesity.
According to the results of the study, American children of kindergarten age are spending, on average, 3.3 hours watching television each day. In related news, a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital found that the more time children spend watching television, the less time they spend sleeping. Having a television in the bedroom was also associated with less sleep time. That’s concerning, because young children need far more sleep than adults and older children. And sleep loss “can have negative effects on both mental and physical health,” as noted in a press release issued by the hospital in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health.
Elizabeth M. Cespedes, Matthew W. Gillman, Ken Kleinman, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, Susan Redline, and Elsie M. Taveras. Television Viewing, Bedroom Television, and Sleep Duration From Infancy to Mid-Childhood. Pediatrics, April 14, 2014 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-3998