Researchers Find Link Between TVs, Childhood Obesity

Study showed Hispanic children with TVs in their bedrooms likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyles.

Roughly 50-77 percent of obese children may remain obese as adults, living with an increased risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

Roughly 50-77 percent of obese children may remain obese as adults, living with an increased risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

With New Year’s resolutions often centering around improving family health, parents might want to think twice before buying their child a new television for Christmas.

A recent study conducted by the Texas Tech College of Human Sciences, in conjunction with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, found that children with TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to engage in lifestyles that lead to childhood obesity.

Du Feng, a human development and family studies professor, was the principal investigator for the study. Using a community-based participatory approach, the research team implemented a U.S. Department of Agriculture multi-component intervention program aimed at prevention and control of childhood weight problems, specifically in low-income Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 8.

Increased Risks

The project team, comprised of Feng, nutrition professor Debra Reed and Texas Tech Health Sciences Center nursing faculty Christina Esperat, found that 70 percent of children in the sample studied had a TV in their bedroom. These children watched more television and had increased sedentary behavior. Additionally, they reported less family support for physical activity and more fast-food consumption.

Childhood weight problems have become a serious public health concern, with 50-77 percent of obese children remaining obese as adults and living with an increased risk for heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

“Sedentary behaviors, and television watching in particular, have been found to be a predictor of childhood overweight and obesity,” Feng said. “The overweight prevalence among Hispanic school-age children from kindergarten to sixth grade in southeastern Texas was 48.1 percent in 2006, which was the highest among all races.”

Preventative Measures

Reed mentioned a few simple implications from the study that may help parents prevent or reduce weight problems in their children.

She first suggests that parents who provide fruits and vegetables and support physical activity can provide a home environment that encourages healthy behaviors. Parents should refer to and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of less than two hours of television per day, as well as its recommendations for children’s fruit and vegetable intake and strategies for increasing the quality and quantity of family meals.

With the holiday season approaching, Feng said parents can help their children by considering all possible effects before providing children with a TV in their bedroom.

“With the change in technology to high-definition TVs, parents may be replacing their current TVs with more updated models and put their older models in their children’s bedrooms,” Reed said. “I would like to emphasize the health value of having only one TV per household.”

For a list of fun activities families can do together instead of watching TV, visit

College of Human Sciences

The College of Human Sciences at Texas Tech University provides multidisciplinary education, research and service focused on individuals, families and their environments for the purpose of improving and enhancing the human condition.

The college offers degrees in:

The college also offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

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