New research is providing fresh evidence that too much TV is bad for kids’ health. University of Montreal scientists have found each hour of television children watch between the ages of 2 and 4 years contributes to his or her waist size by the end of grade 4.
The study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, also tied TV habits to a child’s ability to play sports.
"We already knew that there is an association between preschool television exposure and the body fat of fourth grade children,” said lead researcher Dr. Linda Pagani, “but this is the first study to describe more precisely what that association represents."
For the study, Pagani and her colleagues asked parents of more than 1,300 children about their kids’ TV habits between 2 and 4 years of age. Investigators then later measured the children’s waists and gauged their physical fitness by administering standing long jump tests when they were in fourth grade.
They found that children who watched the most TV as young children had the largest waists and jumped the shortest distances.
Children who watched 18 hours of television each week at 4 years of age had an extra 7.6 millimeters in waist size by the age of 10 than kids who watched less TV. For every extra hour of TV watching – above the average of 8.8 hours per week – children's waist size increased by about a half-millimeter, researchers calculated. They also found that for each weekly hour of TV watched at 29 months of age there was a decrease of about a third of a centimeter in the distance a child could jump.
The findings suggest parents should limit TV watching in very young children, Pagani said. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children over the age of 2 not watch more than two hours of television per day.
"The bottom line,” Pagani said, “is that watching too much television – beyond the recommended amounts – is not good."