TV Watching Linked to Child Obesity

According to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the more television that preschool children watch, the more likely they are to be overweight.

"The TV in the bedroom is an even more powerful predictor of a child being overweight ... (than) just the number of hours per week that they watch," said Dr. Barbara Dennison, the pediatrician who conducted the study.

Dennison, who studied more than 2,000 1- to 4-year-olds, said parents should be as concerned about how long their children watch television as much as what they watch.

"A lot of parents say, 'Well, my child only watches educational TV.' Yet, young children do not learn well just by passively watching TV. They need interaction," she said.

Dennison suggested no more than an hour of TV a day for preschoolers and none for children under age 2.

Shannon Lodholm, who has three children ages 18 months to 6 years, admitted her children do watch quite a bit of TV.

"We watch a lot of cartoons, probably at least three hours a day," Lodholm said.

She added, however, that getting the kids out of the house is a good idea.

Dr. Walt Larimore, Vice President of Medical Outreach at Focus on the Family, agreed, adding that parents should try to get outside with their kids, too.

"Anything that we can do as parents to ... exercise with our kids not only gets them away from TV and gets them moving — which is good for their physical health — but it gets them communicating with us, which is good for their mental and their spiritual health," Larimore said. "Learning what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, where to eat, getting away from that TV and exercising are all simple, low-cost things that improve our family's health."

He also recommended that parents watch TV along with their kids.

To view an abstract of the study, please see the Pediatrics Web site.

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