TVs in children’s bedrooms ‘increase risk of obesity’
Children who have TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to be overweight than those who do not, a study by University College London scientists suggests.
For girls in particular, they found the longer spent watching TV, the more likely children were to put on weight.
Researchers say there is now an urgent need to see if similar patterns exist with laptops and mobile phones.
Experts said high levels of screen time exposed children to a damaging combination of risks to health.
‘Watch and weight’
Published in the International Journal of Obesity, the study analysed data from more than 12,000 young children in the UK.
Researchers are calling for strategies designed to prevent childhood obesity to do more to tackle this issue.
Writing in the journal, they say: “While our screens have become flatter, our children have become fatter.”
Prof Nick Finer, consultant endocrinologist and bariatric physician at University College London, said the study was “powerful” although it couldn’t prove that a bedroom TV directly caused weight gain.
But he added: “It is hard not to think that parents concerned about their child’s risk of becoming overweight might appropriately consider not putting a TV in their young children’s bedrooms.”
Poor eating habits
Prof Russell Viner, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said the findings should be taken seriously.
“With a third of 11-year-old children in England overweight and almost one in five obese, urgently tackling the childhood obesity epidemic is absolutely vital.
“We know that high levels of screen time expose children to increased risks of being overweight on a number of fronts, creating a damaging combination of a more sedentary lifestyle, increased exposure to junk food advertising, disruption to sleep and poorer ability to regulate eating habits when watching TV.”
Prof Viner said the study supported their call for a ban on junk food advertising on TV before the 21:00 watershed.