Kids And Television
Pat Zifferblatt | August 14, 2008

Television and play are directly at odds with one another. Watching television expends no real calories other than resting metabolic rate. Researchers evaluated over 8,000 children between kindergarten and the initial semester of third grade (1). Children who watched more television were at greater risk of being overweight. Given that the average child watches 30 hours of television per week in the United States, that’s a lot of missed activity.

But is it just being sedentary or is it what they’re watching? Researchers in England tested the response to food ads and non-food ads following a cartoon. They showed them to 59 children and then offered them snacks (2). All children ate more after watching food ads than non-food ads whether they were normal weight, overweight, or obese. But the heavier the child, the more they overate.

Television is a great source of entertainment for children and adults alike. But in order for children to maintain a lower body weight, television time should be limited and the television muted during commercials for food. In fact, that might be a good idea for adults as well. If we’ve learned to be receptive to the ads when we’re young, there’s every indication it’s still with us as adults.

  1. Gable S, et al. Television Watching and Frequency of Family Meals are Predictive of Overweight Onset and Persistence in a National Sample of School-Aged Children. JADA. 2007;107(1):53-61.
  2. Halford JC et al. Beyond-brand effect of television food advertisements on food choice in children: the effects of weight status. Public Health Nutr. 2007;16:1-8.
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