TV in Child's Bedroom Tied to Weight Gain
But 'active' video games might help youngsters stay slim, researchers stay
Moreover, active video games can help obese kids get past the stigma they encounter trying to play team sports, said Muinos, who runs an obesity clinic.
But bedroom TVs are another matter entirely, he and other experts say.
A study of more than 6,500 middle-school-age kids, published in the same journal issue, found that those with a TV in their bedroom "gained about one extra pound a year," said lead author Diane Gilbert-Diamond, an assistant professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. This held true whether or not the kids watched a lot of TV.
"Removing a TV from a child's bedroom is a single concrete action that a parent can take to help reduce their child's risk of excessive weight gain," Gilbert-Diamond said.
The researchers said they don't know the exact reasons for the weight gain but they offered two possibilities: greater exposure to food advertising and disrupted sleep patterns, including later bedtimes and poorer sleep quality.
Muinos, who runs an obesity clinic, supported the disrupted-sleep theory. "It's well known that kids who continue to watch TV while the parents are already in bed will have disrupted sleep patterns," he said. "We know that increases weight."
"When kids have TV in the bedroom, they isolate themselves from the family," he added. "They tend to go to bed later. They tend to be less active. They tend to snack on junk food. All of this will increase weight."
Gilbert-Diamond's survey asked more than 6,500 boys and girls aged 10 to 14 if they had a television in their bedroom. Two to four years later, their parents were asked about their kids' height and weight.
Fifty-nine percent of the children had a bedroom TV, and they were more likely to be boys, poor and black or Hispanic, the study found.
At both two years and four years after the survey, having a bedroom TV was associated with an increase in body-mass index (BMI) of nearly one point. BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.