A new small study of Hispanic children has revealed that children with their own TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to be overweight.
"Bedroom TVs lead to more screen time, sedentary behavior, less parental support of physical activity and increased fast food intake," said Du Feng, lead study author.
The researchers sent surveys to 315 West Texas parents of 597 children ages 5 to 9 in kindergarten, first and second grade. They collected information on children's weight, age, gender and body mass index.
"Seventy percent of the children had a TV in their bedroom, and 32 percent were already overweight or they were at risk for becoming overweight due to unhealthy behaviors," said Feng.
Children with TVs in their bedrooms spent 3.5 hours a day in front of the screen compared with 2.58 hours of daily watching by kids who did not have a TV in their room. The kids without personal TVs also had parents who encouraged physical activity.
Kids with their own TVs tended to drink more sugar-sweetened drinks, and eat fewer fruits and veggies and more fast food. However, while these behaviours contribute to obesity, the researchers acknowledge that the study did not link definitively bedroom TV watching with being overweight or having a higher body mass index.
"The exposure of children to unhealthy lifestyles and food marketing by watching TV can dramatically exacerbate the situation," said Dipesh Navsaria, a professor of pediatrics at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Another aspect that is important is the disruption of sleep: There is little stopping a child from turning a television at any time of night if they wake up and have disrupting sleep patterns. Without good sleep, obesity risks increase," added Navsaria, who practices in a community health center with a largely Latino population.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.