Screen-based media in a child’s room found to have an independent risk factor for overweight and increased body fatness.
Over the years, access to screen-based media such as television, laptops, computers, and tablets has increased significantly. TV is the most consumed media in children from ages 5 to 11 years, with gaming coming in second. While technology is advancing, so is childhood obesity. While the relationship between TV viewing and increased weight in children has already been done many times, there is also some evidence that having a TV in a child’s bedroom can worsen the problem. Some hypotheses are that the problem could be attributed to eating calorie-dense foods while watching TV, food commercials on TV, and reduced or disrupted sleep throughout the night.
In a new study published in International Journal of Obesity, researchers assessed longitudinal associations between screen-based media use (television (TV), computers and having a TV in the bedroom) and body fatness among UK children.
The study included 12,556 children from the UK Millennium Cohort (MCS) Study who were followed from age 7 to 11 years. The MCS was a prospective cohort study that followed the lives of children who were born between September 2000 and January 2002 in the four countries of the UK. The data was collected in 5 waves: children at 9 months, 3 years, 5 years and 11 years of age. The outcome of interest in this study was adiposity (body fatness) at 11 years of age. The factors assessed for the outcomes were body mass index (BMI), fat mass index (FMI), and overweight.
At 7 years of age, the researchers measured screen-based media use with 3 variables: whether child had a TV in the bedroom, hours spent watching TV or DVDs, and hours spent playing on the computer.
In the analyses, there were a total of 12,556 children (6,353 boys and 6,203 girls) that had all three completed outcome variables. The mean age for wave five was 11.2 years, and the majority of the children were white (84.6%). The mean BMI at 11 years was 19.0 for boys and 19.5 for girls. The mean FMI was 4.1 for boys and 5.0 for girls. 25% of boys and 30% of girls were overweight at 11 years. At age 7, 55% of boys and 53% of girls had a TV in their bedroom. On average, children with a TV in the bedroom at age 7 had a higher BMI and FMI at age 11 compared to those with no bedroom TV. This association was found to be stronger in girls than boys.
The study shows that having a TV in the bedroom can be an independent risk factor for increased body fatness. All three of the measures of body fatness that were assessed were associated with a TV in the child’s bedroom. Girls with TV in their bedroom at age 7 had a 30% higher risk of being overweight by 11 years. More than half of the 7-year-olds in the study had a TV in their bedroom.
The study limitations were that the measure of screen time for the children were reported by parents, which could have underestimated the number of hours the children spent using a screen. Diet patterns were also not available in the study.
Overall, having a TV in a child’s bedroom can be a risk factor in increased body fatness and childhood obesity. Future research should include sleep duration and diet as well as the increasing use of technology such as computers, laptops, mobile phones, and tablet use in children and how these factors can affect their weight.
- Having a TV in a child’s bedroom can increase risk of children being overweight and increased body fatness
- Girls were found to have higher associations of higher BMI and FMI than boys.
- More than half of the 7 year olds in the sample had a TV in their bedroom.
Heilmann A, Rouxel P, Fitzsimons E, et al. Longitudinal associations between television in the bedroom and body fatness in a UK cohort study. Int J Obes. 2017 Oct; 41(10): 1503-1509.
Jessica Quach Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate 2018, GA-PCOM School of Pharmacy