If you are a mom or dad, a recent study suggest TV time is a huge driving contributor to the current child and teen obesity crisis in America. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently issued a new policy statement identifying "screen time" as a driving force of childhood and teen obesity. Why this habit specifically?
Think about it. If you sit for many hours in front of the TV, then those sitting hours are occurring at the expense of physical activity hours. Sure, you could run on a treadmill every time you watch TV, but how many people are actually doing that?? Next realize that while your child or teen (or even you) sit in front of the TV, you're probably grabbing a snack, or two or three, or eating a full meal or grabbing a caloric soda while you watch the tube. Much of the eating that occurs while watching TV is mindless eating, meaning that your brain, busy with the drama unfolding on TV, is otherwise occupied and not registering the input of all that food. So you tend to eat, whether you are hungry or not, and you tend to overeat because you are simply unaware of the amount of food you are loading into your body.
Of course many of the ads that flash at you during programming feature food products, and the types of food being featured are typically chips, soda, fast food, sugary cereals, snack foods, sugary drinks. Manufacturers of those foods can afford to spend millions of dollars on ad campaigns and depend on the messaging of those ads to spur you to....eat more of the high sugar, high fat, and high sodium laden foods. So the programming you are seeing - and let's not forget product placement in TV shows - actually inspires you to eat more! Research shows that kids who watch more than 21 hours of TV a week experience a huge drive to consume high fat and high carbohydrate foods, compared to kids who watch far less TV. These kids also log in significantly higher BMI readings. We also know that food branding, which can include cartoon figures and celebrities hawking food items, has a significant impact on kids and teens. So the more they watch TV, the more likely they are to experience the branding effect.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that doctors who see kids and teens need to ask at least two TV-related questions to the kids or their parents during a visit, to begin a dialogue about TV watching limits and the impact that viewing is having on health. A policy statement issued by the group also urges:
- A ban on advertising of unhealthy foods to kids
- Restrictions on interactive food advertising via digital media
- Support of further research that looks at the impact of media on kids
- More "healthy food" messaging and media campaigns
- Parental control of TV time
- Parents modeling physical activity
Published On: December 05, 2011