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How Much TV is Too Much? Might be Less Than You Think for Kindergarteners


According to new research, watching as little as 60 minutes of television each day could lead to an unhealthy weight in kindergarten children.

Past studies examining the link between television and childhood obesity have typically looked at the effects of watching at least two hours of TV a day for various age groups. A recent study led by Dr. Mark D. DeBoer, Associate Professor of Pediatrics with the University of Virginia, on the other hand, focused on determining how watching smaller amounts of television, such as just 60 minutes a day, would affect children in kindergarten.

For the study, DeBoer and his team examined data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey of more than 11,000 kindergarten children across the United States during the 2011-2012 school year. Information provided in the survey included the number of hours children watched TV each day as well as their height and weight. A year later, most of the children were evaluated again for these same factors. The researchers also took into account parental income and education as well as other factors shown to impact obesity.

They found that, on average, kindergarten children in the United States watched at least three hours of television a day. Additionally, the research showed that children who watched one to two hours of TV already had nearly the same degree of unhealthy body weight as those who watched more than two hours, which supported the idea that even lower amounts of watching TV are associated with unhealthy weight gain. Furthermore, children of a healthy weight who watched more than 60 minutes of TV a day had a higher risk of reaching an unhealthy weight in the future compared with kids who viewed less than one hour of TV daily. Specifically, they were at least 1.5 times more likely to become overweight and roughly 1.7 times more likely to become obese.

The findings suggest the amount of television children should watch might require stricter recommendations. The researchers recommend limiting screen time to no more than one hour of TV daily. Additionally, by encouraging parents to limit children’s TV viewing, physicians can play a major role in preventing unhealthy weight gain in kids.

This research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in San Diego at the end of April. These findings will also be published in the journal Obesity. Click here to view the study abstract, titled “Viewing as Little as 1 Hour of Television Daily Is Associated with Higher Weight Status in Kindergarteners: The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.”