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How TV and Electronics Affect Your Child’s Weight

Posted Jan 07 2013 11:00am

medium 5639571734 199x300 How TV and Electronics Affect Your Childs Weight I remember vividly my mother telling us to go outside and play. She did not permit us to fritter away the afternoon watching TV. We loved being outside so much that she had to call us in at night. Those were the days. Today, it’s a different story.

Childhood obesity has reached crisis proportions in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that obesity rates have increased threefold in the last 30 years. Many factors have contributed to this situation. Portion sizes have increased, along with the subsequent spikes in caloric intake. Another problem involves free time.

Electronic Distractions

Sure, kids may still be playing outside, but other distractions also exist. The so-called electronic babysitter has replaced some face time with parents. Other electronics like tablets marketed for children threaten to do the same. All of these devices have taken a wedge out of active time, setting children down the path to obesity.

A study by Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA found evidence that quantifies the effects of TV viewing, particularly, in the bedroom, on several health risk factors. Researchers learned that children watching TV in their bedroom were 2.5 times more likely to have a higher fat mass. The evidence doesn’t end just with weight.

The findings also show that bedroom TV watching increased the odds of cardiovascular risk factors like high triglycerides three times. On top of that, it also affected sleep patterns, which, in turn, have been associated with higher obesity rates. Perhaps most sobering of all is that these early habits can continue into adulthood.

Adding Weight to the Obstacles

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know how difficult it is. Whether you’re counting calories or exercising more, you know that it’s hard work. Let’s be honest; it is an uphill climb. Now, imagine that you have been overweight whole life. From childhood, you’ve never been highly active. How difficult it must be for your body to adapt to a new workout routine!

I’m hardly one to admonish electronics; I often tease that I want to be buried with my tablet. However, when thinking of kids, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Being outside and making up your own games fuels imagination. Viewing videos passively doesn’t stimulate the mind in the same way. These children may be overweight, but they are also starved of creative time.

The takeaway message from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center study is that a TV in the bedroom is unnecessary and unhealthy. Children may fall into a pattern of watching TV or using electronics later in life; however, let’s at least give them a solid foundation of good health. You can do this by limiting time on the computer or watching TV. It’s that important.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012).  Childhood Obesity Facts .

Staiano, A., et al. (2013).  Television, Adiposity, and Cardiometabolic Risk in Children and AdolescentsAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(1): 40-47. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.049

photo credit: Frans Persoon via photopin cc

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