Study: Kids’ Screen Time Leads to Weight Gain

According to a new study, research finds that children and teenagers who spend excessive amounts of time in front of screens, especially the television, tend to gain more weight as they age. These finding were consistent with previous research that suggested exposure to advertisements and idle sitting may fuel poor eating habits.

Even when parents monitor their children’s television use, screen time often amounts to more than they realize. The majority of kids from the United States and Canada surpass the recommended 2 hour maximum for watching television per day.

“We don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s half an hour here, half an hour there, an hour here, an hour there,” Mark told Reuters Health. He is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and wasn’t involved in the new study.

Researches conducted surveys every other year in order to obtain their data, according to Genevra Pittman of Reuters. The participants ages ranged from 9 to 16. They were asked for their height and weight as well as their habits regarding TV, movies, computer games and video games.

24% of the 3,500 boys in the study were found to be overweight, and 17 percent out of  the 4,300 girls were overweight or obese.

In each resulting survey that the children participated in, an increase of one hour of television equates to an increase of around 0.1 on the BMI scale. This means a difference of about a half a pound per hour of TV.

“The weight of the evidence is pretty strong that television viewing is related to unhealthy changes in weight among youth,” according to  Jennifer Falbe, who led the esearch while studying at Harvard School of Public Health.

“It’s important for parents to be aware of all the potentially obesogenic screens that they should really be limiting in their children’s lives.”

Another study found that children who have parents that are consistently involved, including setting rules and limitations around screen time have a lower BMI than their classmates and friends. Another report from the same journal found that 11 percent of children from low-income families were obese by the age of 5 if they were not already.

“There is more purposeful, deliberate exposure to eating options, commercials that come on that might cue you to go off to the pantry and grab a cookie or a soft drink,” Tremblay said. “Typically your hands are free when you’re watching TV, so should that temptation capture you, you’re able to sit there and munch on whether it’s a healthy or an unhealthy snack”

Additionally, Tremblay said kids can get into a hibernative state on the couch even if they are sitting down while playing a computer game, for instance.