Telly in the children's bedroom not a good idea, says new report
Following the Christmas period, many children’s bedrooms may look like mini digital hubs, with all sorts of new televisions, tablets, laptops and smartphones in the possession of children. The debate over whether or not to have televisions in a child’s bedroom is often a personal one, with some parents deciding to allow televisions albeit with strict limits.
New research due out this month by the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in the US has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that having a bedroom television could have a far greater impact on health and obesity levels among children than previously thought. The study, entitled Television, Adiposity and Cardiometabolic Risk in Children and Adolescents, found that children with a television in their bedrooms were more likely to watch more television and were shown to have more fat and subcutaneous adipose tissue mass, as well as higher waist circumference, when compared with their peers who did not have a bedroom television.
“A bedroom TV may create additional disruptions to healthy habits, above and beyond regular TV viewing,” said study co-author Amanda Staiano. “For instance, having a bedroom TV is related to lower amounts of sleep and lower prevalence of regular family meals, independent of total TV viewing time. Both short sleep duration and lack of regular family meals have been related to weight gain and obesity.”
In the Growing up in Ireland ( growingup.ie) report, the results showed that 45 per cent of Irish 9-year-olds had a television in their bedrooms. A 2007 pan-European study already established that over half of all Irish children watched more television that their European counterparts with some 60 per cent of children in Ireland aged 6-12 years, watching between one and a half and three hours’ television a day. This viewing time often increases, as children get older.
Highest levels of fat mass
The Pennington Biomedical Research Centre study found that participants with a television in the bedroom and those who watched it for more than two hours a day were two and a half times more likely to have the highest levels of fat mass.
The study also showed that having a television in a bedroom was linked with three times the odds of elevated cardiometabolic risk (such as cardiovascular disease and/or the development of Type 2 diabetes), elevated waist circumference, and elevated triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood).
The full study will be published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The results tie in with a separate study from the University of Alberta in 2012 that also found that electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, and mobile phones in a child’s bedroom is linked with both poor sleep and obesity.
For parents, the topic can be a difficult one to navigate. By the age of 13 or 14-years, a great many children will have a combination of electronic hardware, from smartphones to laptop computers. It can be very difficult to police, especially when the majority of children are allowed bring such technology into their bedrooms. Paula Ryan, who is a food blogger ( paulaskitchentable.blogspot.ie/) and mother of three children, set up a television for her eldest son two years ago when he was 7 years old. Crucially, Paula and her husband control what the children view and when.