Television Childhood Obesity

TV Watching, Child Obesity Linked

child obesityMany studies have concluded that a child's weight increases with the number of hours he or she spends watching television each day. Experts are calling a US "epidemic" of childhood obesity. Obesity is one of the key health concerns among both children and adults in the United States today. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children should not watch more than two hours of television a day. But, the average child in the U.S. regularly watches between 2-3 hours of television a day, and many children have a television set in their bedroom.

Television literally is a child obesity machine both because of what it shows and the way it affects children’s lives. It gives advertisers a way to walk through the front door of the home and speak directly to children. Not only are children inactive while they are watching television, they often snack on unhealthy food (see childhood obesity & food) choices. Establishing unhealthy habits as a child can continue into adulthood.

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media and childhood obesity
Media and Childhood Obesity

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Childhood Obesity Advertising

Researchers have hypothesized that television and media causes child obesity (see childhood obesity causes) by following mechanisms:

Displacement of physical activity and exercise. Media lessen the time the child expend in energetic activities, such as running and playing. In other words, it's not what the child is doing but rather what he/she is not doing while watching TV.

media and childhood obesityIncreased calorie consumption while watching or caused by the effects of advertising, The foods most heavily advertised on media are high in calories: candy bars, sugared cereals, etc. which influence children to make unhealthy food choices.

Decreased resting metabolic rates as media needs no energy

Media characters are typically munching snacks not sitting down for well-balanced diets (see childhood obesity & diet).

The study also showed that 26% of US children watched 4 or more hours of television per day. Experts already label television viewing as the number one leisure-time activity of most school-age children.

The study's authors point out that the average high school graduate will likely spend 15,000 to 18,000 hours in front of a television but only 12,000 hours in school.

Average children in US spend 19 hours and 40 minutes of TV per week more than a thousand hours each year. That means an annual exposure to thousands of commercials for junk food and fast food (see childhood obesity fast food).Then there’s all the lost playtime during those 20 hours each week, children are not physically active.

television childhood obesity

As television viewing time rises, time spent exercising outdoors declines, especially among girls. A decrease in physical activity (see childhood obesity & physical activity) seems to occur as girls move from the 11- to 13-year age group to the 14- to 16-year age group.

Not surprisingly, child obesity is worse in some minority communities. African-American and Mexican-American children had lower rates of exercise (see childhood obesity & exercise), and higher rates of television viewing, compared with their white peers.

The researchers found that 48% of African American children watched 4 or more hours of television per day nearly double the national average. They do so in part because they are more likely to live in places where it’s unsafe to play in the park or the street. They also often receive less parent (see childhood obesity & parents) supervision, which means more opportunities for corporate marketers to intrude on their lives.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Kids who watch the most hours of television have the greater risk of childhood obesity.

television childhood obesityThe popularity of media, computers, and video games transform into an ever more sedentary (inactive) lifestyle for many children in America.

Children in America expend an estimate of over three hrs per day watching television. Television not only encourages physical inactivity but, it also encourages snacking.

In addition, only a small minority of children (1 in 5) regularly participate in after-school (see childhood obesity in schools) sports or extra-curricular physical activity.

The researchers discovered that 20% of US children partake in two or fewer bouts of vigorous activity per week. (Health experts currently recommend at least three periods of strenuous exercise per week). The problem stems from the fact that watching television is a sedentary activity but it's much more than that.Watching TV, many times eating high-calorie/high-fat snack foods, and watching commercials for fast food, all of which may encourage obesity in children. When junk-food companies realized the power that TV marketing has over children, they invested heavily in it; the resultant rise in the marketing of junk foods was coextensive to the rise in childhood obesity.

childhood obesity preventionTips for parents

What can you do as a parent or guardian or caregiver to help preventing childhood obesity? We have some ideas in our Childhood Obesity Prevention section.

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