As a parent and a health professional it was very intuitive for me to NEVER consider putting a TV in my kid’s bedrooms. I remember baby sitting as a teenager, and the parents walking me through a bedtime ritual that included leaving the TV on in their “still in the crib toddler’s bedroom, so he could fall asleep. Even at that age, I had a bit of a problem with that concept. I kept thinking that just like me, the baby should be able to learn to fall asleep even if it involved a few tears. It’s kind of a rite of passage for everyone. These parents apparently felt the rite of passage included nighttime TV programming!
i then became a first time parent years later. Despite the fact that several of my new mommy friends were putting TVs in their kids rooms as they reached various age milestones, I saw TV time as:
(a) Special time
(b) A habit that needed tight control and guidelines
(c) Something that would keep a child in their room and thus away from being with their family, friends, hobbies, or physical activity
A new study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine establishes that more “screen time” is associated with higher rates of childhood obesity. Kids who are allowed to have a TV in their bedroom tend to watch more TV – not surprising. But even more interesting is that when you compare this child to another who only watches TV in a common room like the family room, the hour by hour “extra viewing time” which happens in the bedroom is linked to higher rates of belly fat, higher triglyceride levels and generally higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Even when you compare two kids with exactly the same number of hours of viewing time, one in his own bedroom and one in a family room setting, cardio-metabolic risk factors are still higher in the child who has his own TV. Statistics show that more boys than girls have bedroom televisions.
The study’s lead author, Amanda Staiano, a researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, shared that she would love if this study inspired parents to “just say no” to any requests of a TV for a holiday wish – if it is meant for a child’s bedroom. She also pointed to the disruptive nature of a TV in the bedroom, when it comes to quality sleep. Kids should not be watching TV to fall asleep, and if they wake up during the night, they should not be turning a TV on for companionship. Poor sleep quality itself is a risk factor for obesity. Having a TV in one’s room can also interfere with family dinner hour, making the child reticent to come out and join the family and possibly miss a show they have come to love. Less family eating time is also a separate risk factor for weight issues.
The study looked at 369 kids between the ages of 5 and 18. A series of questions established viewing time habits, and whether the child had their own TV. Weight, BMI, waist size, fasting triglycerides, full cholesterol panel, visceral fat, and other measurements were assessed. Findings were then correlated to daily hours of viewing time and whether or not screening time was happening, to a large extent, in the private bedroom space. Weight, academic performance, and sleep can all be adversely affected by a TV in a child’s room, based on this study and other past studies. Frankly, in this new age of electronics, the same findings probably hold true for smartphones and computers in a child’s room. Use of these devices is also correlated to increased rates of snacking on highly processed foods, and overall higher food consumption.
Give your child a bike, pair of skates, tennis racquet, jump rope, or a hike with you and a healthy picnic instead of a TV this holiday season!!
Published On: December 13, 2012