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Health & Parenting

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Interventions Can Cut Kids' TV Screen Time

Less Screen Time May Result in Lower Rates of Childhood Obesity, Resarchers Say

Kids, TV, and Obesity

Victor C. Strasburger, MD, chief of the division of adolescent medicine at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, says that too much TV time affects risk of weight gain and obesity in many ways. He co-authored a policy statement in the same issue of the journal.

“When you are watching seven hours a day of media, you are not outside playing, and you are seeing a lot of ads for junk foods and fast food, “ he says. “You are also snacking more and your sleeping habits are affected so you sleep less, which is also associated with risk of obesity.

“If your child has a TV set or Internet connection in their bedroom or if you let your teens go to bed with their iPad or cellular phone, that child is not going to get enough sleep and their risk for obesity goes up dramatically,” Strasburger says.

No Magic Bullet

Scott Kahan, MD, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C., says that he is not surprised the study interventions had only a moderate effect on TV viewing habits.

But even this modest reduction is important, he says. “We can’t expect any magic bullet to solve the problem of childhood obesity whether a special diet, exercise plan, or intervention aimed at decreasing TV time, there’s no single thing that will solve this multifaceted problem.

“There is a strong connection between screen time and gaining weight and being overweight as well as a number of other unhealthy behaviors even if you don’t end up gaining excess weight,” Kahan says.

“Sitting in front of the TV watching children’s TV shows exposes kids to so much branding and fast food advertising,” he says. “This primes peoples’ foods preferences and choices and will cause weight gain over time.”

Replacing these ads with commercials for healthy food would be helpful, as would regulations to decrease aggressive junk food advertising to children, Kahan says.

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