According to Melissa Healy for the Los Angeles Times, the screen time a kid logs in his or her bedroom is linked, hour-for-hour, to more belly fat, higher triglycerides and overall greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
These findings come when 70% of kids ages 8-18 already have televisons in their bedrooms.
The study's lead author, Amanda E. Staiano a researcher with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, suggests that placing a television in a child's bedroom can have corrosive effects on their health.
The study looked at 369 youth between the ages of 5 and 18. The researchers measured the kids' waist circumference, blood pressure and fasting triglycerides; ran a full cholesterol panel; and gauged each child's fat mass in two ways to get precise measures of subcutaneous fat, fat accumulated in the belly and around visceral organs, and overall fat-to-lean mass ratio. And they tested each child's fasting glucose level -- a measure of metabolic function. The researchers also had participants estimate their daily physical activity levels of food intake.
The study found that of children who watch more than two hours of TV a day, those who had a TV in their bedroom were as much as 2 1/2 times likelier to be in the top one-quarter of kids in terms of fat mass. That finding held steady even after researchers adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, physical activity levels and diet. Compared to kids who watched TV in a living area of the home, those who had a TV in their room were almost three times likelier to have "elevated cardiometabolic risk," meaning they had three or more unhealthy readings in the panels of medical tests they were given.
Sheer volume of TV time mattered too: Kids who watched five or more hours of TV a day were twice as likely as those who watched less to carry a density of visceral fat that fell in the top quartile.
"Research has consistently shown better outcomes for kids who don’t have a TV in their bedroom than for those who do, whether we’re talking about obesity, sleep or academic achievement." Said Vicky Rideout, who has written some of the most detailed studies of children's media exposure and its effects for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
(See story below for more on children's television watching and sleep problems.)
Written by: Taylor McCulloch