Excessive TV Watching / Video Games Means Excess Weight Gain for Children
Limiting the amount of TV children watch, video games they play or the amount of computer time they have is really an important part of the parents' responsibility to get their kids moving.The scale of sedentary activities has however increased in recent years. A study of children's TV-watching habits reported that 97 per cent of children between 9 and 16 years old watched TV for an average of two hours a day in 1999.
More recent figures indicate that 19 per cent of boys and 17 per cent of girls aged 11-15 years watch TV at least 4 hours a day on weekdays. The corresponding figures for weekends were 40 per cent of boys and 33 per cent of girls. The use of computers and computer games has also increased over the last twenty years.Over 85% of students say they play video games regularly. Over 30% of American homes have a video game system hooked up to the television.If allowed to rule your child's free time and study time, video games can decrease development of skills in sports, music, and art. Performance in school can be affected if reading and homework are not done.
Television viewing for preschool-age children appears to be a powerful predictor of overweight risk.In a typical American home, the TV is on more than seven hours a day, with most children spending more time watching TV than in school – and that balance could be to blame for children’s expanding waistlines, says study lead author Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., assistant research scientist at the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development.
Children need enough food for proper growth, but too many calories and too little physical activity lead to overweight. The number of overweight U.S. children has risen dramatically in recent years. Encourage healthy weight by offering children grain products; vegetables and fruits; low-fat dairy products; and beans, lean meat, poultry, fish, or nuts—and let them see you enjoy eating the same foods. Let the child decide how much of these foods to eat. Offer only small amounts of food high in fat or added sugars. Encourage children to take part in vigorous activities (and join them whenever possible). Limit the time they spend in sedentary activities like watching television or playing computer or video games.
The more time 3-year-olds spend glued to the television, the worse their diet will be, a new study reveals.
The link between TV watching and a poor diet was evident on a per-hour basis, with each additional hour of viewing translating into more consumption of calories, sugar, fast food and trans fats, and less consumption of fruits, vegetables, calcium and dietary fiber.
In the last two decades the number of overweight and obese children has more than doubled, putting them at risk to become overweight or obese adults with serious problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even psychological and social problems.
"The obesity epidemic has not even spared our youngest children," cautioned study author Sonia A. Miller, an undergraduate at Harvard Medical School. She believes that "reducing screen time among young children seems to be important" in preventing the early development of poor eating habits and obesity among toddlers.
The findings were expected to be discussed at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, in Orlando, Fla.
Miller's team noted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that children under the age of 2 not be exposed to TV at all, while youngsters over the age of 2 be limited to no more than two hours of TV per day.
To assess how well real-world practice matches that ideal, the Harvard group analyzed questionnaires completed by mothers of more than 1,200 children. All of the children were enrolled at birth in a Massachusetts nutrition study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The surveys gathered information on both the weekday and weekend TV-viewing habits of boys and girls in the month prior to the study launch. Information on dietary intake in that period was also compiled for all the children, who averaged just over 3.
Almost three-quarters of the children were white, and 87 percent came from families earning more than $40,000 per year. Nearly three-quarters of the mothers had obtained at least a college degree.
The authors found that, on average, the kids watched 1.7 hours of TV daily -- a figure falling within AAP guidelines.
However, for those children who watched greater amounts of TV, every added hour of viewing was associated with deficits in the healthiness of their diet.
Overall food consumption increased by just over 46 calories a day with each additional hour of TV viewing, the researchers reported. That may not seem like much, but prior research suggests that all the excess weight gained by American adolescents over the past decade stems from just an extra 150 calories per day.
So, nearly one-third of this weight gain might be linked to that single extra hour of TV or video games per day, the researchers said.
A one-hour bump in TV viewing was also associated with the consumption of an additional serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage (including juice) per week; an additional 0.3 serving of fast food per month; and an additional 0.06 serving of red and processed meat per day, the team found.
The percentage of daily calories constituted by trans fats also rose with increased exposure to TV.
At the same time, kids' consumption of healthy foods dropped as TV viewing rose. A one-hour rise in TV viewing was linked to a drop in vegetable intake of 0.2 servings per day; a dietary fiber drop of 0.4 grams per day; and a decline in calcium intake of 23.2 milligrams per day, the researchers reported.
Miller's group could not determine whether (or how) TV viewing provokes children to switch from healthy foods to unhealthy ones.
Excess TV time may increase health risks -- such as obesity and cardiovascular complications -- through the promotion of poor eating habits, rather by acting as a substitute for physical activity, the researchers said. TV could also boost unhealthy eating via kids' exposure to certain television commercials (for sugary or fatty foods) or by encouraging kids to snack while watching television, they theorized.
"We hope that our results may provide clinicians, parents and policy makers with an understanding for why screen time should be limited among young children," Miller said.
Dr. Rebecca Unger, an attending pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital and a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago, said the findings make sense.
"There have been other studies that have shown that increased TV watching correlates with higher obesity in kids," she said. "They've underlined a lot of reasons why we need to limit TV. This is another one."
"When I see kids who are overweight, a lot of the time there's really excessive TV watching going on," added Unger. "And this is showing, the more hours, the more unhealthy the pattern is. It's not that kids can't watch TV. We just need to keep it in check."
Engagement in play and sports gives young people opportunities for natural self-expression, relief of tension, achievement, social interaction and integration as well as for learning the spirit of solidarity and fair play in human relations. These positive effects help also to counteract the risks and harm caused by the demanding, competitive, stressful and sedentary way of life that is so common in present global society and which leads to an increase in high body mass index obesity/verweight) rates and in tobacco use among young people. Involvement in properly guided physical activity and sports can also foster the adoption of other health-enhancing behaviour including avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use. It can also foster healthy diet, adequate rest and better safety practices (e.g. injury prevention and less violent behaviour).
No doubt about it - television, interactive video games, and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment for your child. But too much plugged-in time can have unhealthy side effects.
That's why it's a good idea to monitor and limit your child's "screen time," the time your child spends playing video games, watching TV, and playing games on the Internet.