Research suggests that if mothers feel that their neighborhoods are safe then their preschool children tend to watch less TV. However the study also points out that this does not mean that these children play more outdoors or are less overweight in comparison with their counterparts in unsafe neighborhoods.
Drawing from a study of three-year-olds in 20 U.S. cities, researchers reported these findings in the September issue of Pediatrics.
Researchers had said that theirs is the first study to examine, in a national sample, the relationship between parental perception of neighborhood safety and obesity, physical activity and television viewing in preschool children. Television viewing is associated with aggression and poorer academic performance in school-aged children, and TV-viewing patterns are established early in life, said the researchers fro the study.
Researchers had found no significant effect on outdoor playtime or obesity in the preschoolers. They clarified that although other studies have found some evidence that TV viewing is associated with higher BMI in children, this may only be true in older children for whom the average daily television viewing time is greater.
The researchers used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of nearly 5,000 children born in 20 large U.S. cities from 1998 to 2000. A follow-up study collected data from approximately 3,330 mothers when their children were three years old.
Almost two-thirds of the children watched more than two hours of television daily, with children in neighborhoods thought unsafe watching approximately 10 percent more TV (about 20 minutes a day) than children in neighborhoods perceived as safer. Obesity prevalence and outdoor playtime did not differ significantly between children in safe and unsafe neighborhoods.
The lead researcher mentions that one reason that outdoor play may not have been related to BMI is that outdoor play is not a direct measure of physical activity as some children can be physically active while playing indoors.