Researchers found that children who slept in
bedrooms with TVs gained more weight each year over the next few
years, than kids without TVs in their rooms.
"It's well known that screen time is related to weight gain, but we
specifically wanted to look at whether televisions in the bedroom
are related to weight gain," Diane Gilbert-Diamond told Reuters
"We hypothesized that they would be because bedroom television may
disrupt sleep and there is a known link between sleep disruption and
weight gain," she added.
Gilbert-Diamond is the study's lead author from the Geisel School of
Medicine at Dartmouth College in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
She and her colleagues write in JAMA Pediatrics that it's estimated
about a third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese.
Previous studies have also linked TVs in children's bedrooms to an
increased risk of being overweight.
The authors also note that about 71 percent of adolescents have TVs
in their bedrooms.
"We really hope to help our children get a healthy start in life so
that they have the best chance for a healthy future,"
For the new study, she and her colleagues used data collected from
an ongoing study of U.S. teens.
About 6,500 kids between 10 and 14 years old were recruited in 2003
to take a telephone survey. Those children and teens also answered
questions two years later and again four years later.
"This is the first study to look at whether having a bedroom TV led
to future weight gain," Gilbert-Diamond said.
About 59 percent of participants reported having TVs in their
Overall, the participants who reported having TVs in their bedrooms
had larger increases in their body mass index — a measure of weight
in relation to height — after two and four years, compared with those
who didn't have TVs in the bedroom.
The difference translates to about one extra pound of weight gain
each year among participants with bedroom TVs, Gilbert-Diamond said.
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While one additional pound each year may not seem
like much, she said those can add up throughout childhood.
"If a bedroom TV is present from an early age, it could lead to
substantial weight gain over the course of childhood,"
The researchers acknowledge
their study cannot say for sure that bedroom TVs lead to sleep
problems, which in turn lead eventually to weight gain.
It might also be that participants with bedroom TVs were exposed to
more food advertising than those who didn't have TVs in their
bedrooms, for example.
"In the future, we'd like to explore other media devices — such as
laptops, tablets and smart phones — to see if they relate to weight
gain and to test whether bedroom media lead to weight gain through
disrupted sleep or other mechanisms," Gilbert-Diamond said.
For parents, she recommends taking the TVs from kids' bedrooms.
"Unlike other parenting strategies that require persistent
monitoring and effort, removing a TV from a child's bedroom is a
one-time action," she said.
JAMA Pediatrics, online March 3, 2014.
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