Researchers found that mothers who were more active
in their media supervision had children who were thinner at age
seven and who gained less weight over the next few years.
"At this point we can say there is an association but we cannot say
exactly why," Stacey Tiberio, the study's lead author from the
Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, told Reuters Health.
For example, she said the results could be due to vigilant mothers
encouraging their children to be more active instead of letting them
watch TV. It could also be that their kids aren't spending as much
time being exposed to food advertisements.
The researchers write in JAMA Pediatrics that understanding the role
of parental media monitoring is crucial in the development of
obesity programs and interventions.
For the new study, they used data from 112 mothers, 103 fathers and
their 213 children.
Parents and children answered questionnaires, were interviewed and
received physicals when the kids were five, seven and nine years
old. The data were collected between 1998 and 2012.
The researchers found that when mothers reported spending less time
monitoring their kids' media consumption, kids tended be heavier at
seven years old.
What's more, less aggressive media monitoring by mothers was tied to
more irregular weights among children over the entire study period.
Monitoring by fathers was not tied to changes in weight. Tiberio
said that may be because mothers tend to be children's primary
caregiver. She also cautioned that these are only the results of one
But she said showing a link between TV monitoring and weight in this
group is important, because early adolescence tends to be a crucial
point for many people weight-wise.
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"It's basically a one-way door," Tiberio said. "If
you are obese by middle childhood, you have an increased likelihood
of staying in that group."
Jennifer Falbe, who was
not involved with the new research but has studied screen time and
its connection to weight, told Reuters Health the new study supports
"What they found is
consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to
limit children's total screen time to no more than one to two hours
per day of high quality content," she said.
Falbe is a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley
School of Public Health.
"Parents should keep TV sets and other electronic media out of
children's bedrooms," she said. "Research has also indicated that
parents' own TV viewing habits can influence their children. In
addition to limiting their children's screen time, it's also
important to set a good example."
JAMA Pediatrics, online March 17, 2014.
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