05 July 2011

Kids who frequently watch TV are likely to be obese, junk food advertising a culprit

The more television a child watches during the day, the more likely they are to be obese, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in their latest news release. When children watch more than two hours of media per day, the sedentary activity takes the place of more calorie burning options such as “old school” playing outside and the children involved tend to gain more weight. The governing body of physicians feels that pediatricians can help parents shorten the amount of time their kids are exposed to media by quizzing them during annual check ups about their family’s television habits.

Couch potato kids also get bombarded by advertisements for junk food while they’re watching TV or digital media and are then more likely to want to eat the food. Heavy TV watching increases the desire for snacking and if the child watches violent TV at night, they are also more likely to experience sleep disturbances such as nightmares or waking up involuntarily, said the AAP. Interestingly, the biggest psychological “bully” a child may face these days is the TV his parents have placed in his room for entertainment.

“We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and inactivity,” said Victor Strasburger, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media. “American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep.”

Apparently, the AAP feels that parents will listen to their children’s doctor since they can’t figure out the common sense approach to TV viewing for themselves. The AAP has asked doctors to counsel parents to limit TV time for their kids and to also take the television and internet connections out of their children’s bedrooms. There are more and more cases of childhood high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma that the AAP is now linking to the stress that comes from inordinate amounts of TV viewing.

Strasburger added that the federal government ruled 30 years ago that young children were defenseless against advertising. Now, with kids watching an average of 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year for junk and fast food, they don’t stand a chance.

Kathryn Lorusso
Kathryn is a former journalist and English teacher who now counsels and mediates teenage drama on a daily basis in the Dallas, Ft. Worth metroplex. Time away from school is spent cooking up new macrobiotic/vegan specialties, writing various blogs and newsletters and taking as many bikram yoga classes as possible.

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