TV in your child’s bedroom can increase risk of obesity

23rd Jun 2017
TV in your child’s bedroom can increase risk of obesity

(Photo:SOddharmonic/Creative Commons)

A recent study by University College London has shown that children who have a TV in their bedroom are more likely to become overweight, compared with those who do not. The data from the study also suggested that this risk was higher for girls than boys.

Published in the International Journal of Obesity, the study analysed data from over 12,000 young children in the UK. The researchers found that more than half the children in the study had a TV in their bedroom by the age of seven.

Parents were asked to rate how many hours a day their children generally spent watching TV. When the children in the study reached eleven years old the researchers took their height and weight measurements and calculated each child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and the child’s percentage body fat. The results showed that overall children who had a TV in their bedroom were more likely to be overweight than their counterparts who did not. This was found to be higher in girls; with girls who had a TV in their bedroom aged 7 years 30% more likely to be overweight when they were 11, compared to children who did not have TVs. Similarly, boys who had a TV in their bedroom aged 7 were 20% more likely to be overweight at age 11.

The researchers concluded there was a clear link between having a TV in the bedroom at a young age and being overweight a few years later. One interesting aspect reported by the study was that for girls, in particular, they found the longer time spent watching TV, the more likely they were to put on weight. Researchers said they could not be certain why there is a link between having a TV in the bedroom and putting on weight but that it could be related to several things; not getting enough sleep when watching TV in their bedrooms, snacking in front of the TV in their rooms or spending time watching TV rather than being active and playing. The stronger link between the hours’ girls spend watching TV and being overweight could be influenced by girls being less likely to be physically active than boys at this age.

Healthcare workers commenting on the results of the study have said that the findings should be taken seriously. Childhood obesity has been rising in recent years; a third of 11-year-old children in England are considered overweight with almost one in five obese. Obesity in childhood increases the risk of being obese as an adult, which is linked to many different heath issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and joint problems. Tackling childhood obesity is an important health issue and high levels of screen time can increase the risk of being sedentary, exposure to junk food adverts, disruption to sleep and snacking in front of the TV.

Although the study cannot prove that a TV in the bedroom leads to obesity, it certainly raises an important point for parents to consider when deciding when and if to allow young children to have a TV in their bedroom.

Researchers say there is now an urgent need to see if similar patterns exist with laptops and mobile phones.

Research paper in International Obesity Journal CLICK HERE

Rachel Kayani

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