Nowadays children grow up with a tablet or a smartphone in their hands and no one seems to care. A TV in a child‘s bedroom seems to be normal and even preferred, since then adults can watch whatever they want on their main TV in the living room. However a new study from UCL shows that it can actually cause some serious damage – TV in child‘s bedroom can increase the risk of obesity.
Scientists took a look at over 12,000 young children in the UK and found that those 11yo’s who had a TV in their bedroom since they were 7 or so are usually heavier – they show worse BMI and fat mass index. Girls were around 30 % more likely to be overweight, for boys this number was 20 %. Scientists also noticed that children are involved in a vicious circle. Spending more time in front of a TV screen leads to being overweight, but being overweight also leads to more screen time.
Scientists also analysed other factors, such as household income, mothers’ education, breastfeeding duration, physical activity and irregular bedtimes. BMI of mother seems to be important, because it correlates with food environment at home – that is more important that genetic factor. Scientists say that more than anything their study shows that TV in the bedroom should be considered when creating plans to fight obesity in the country. Dr Anja Heilmann, one of the authors of the study, said: “Screen time is part of the bigger picture and further research is needed among older children and adolescents, as the use of screen-based media including computers, mobile phones and tablets increases with age”.
You think that it is rare for children to have TV in their bedrooms? Of 12 556 children sampled half had TV’s in their bedrooms at the age of 7. And, of course, portable devices, such as tablets and smartphones are just as bad. Interestingly, scientists found that girls were much more likely to become overweight due to extensive screen time than boys. Why? Scientists argue that it might have something to do with girls being less physically active, which was shown in previous studies.
What parents can take from this study? Well, limiting screen time of their children is always a good idea, especially if it is replaced with some exercising. And, of course, the best way to encourage your children to move more is by showing an example – children love running around and playing with their parents. This would benefit both adults and children in the family.