A mounting body
of research is showing that kids’ media use may be linked to their
weight, partly because the sedentary act of watching television and
movies or playing on computers and mobile devices can displace other
activities that burn more calories.
But too much
media exposure can also affect children’s weight in other ways,
according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP), “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media.” The
statement appears in the July 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online June 27).
According to the
statement, ads for junk food and fast food increase kids’ desire for
these foods. Studies also have shown that snacking increases while
watching TV or movies. And late-night screen time can interfere with
sleep, which puts kids at higher risk for obesity.
“We’ve created a
perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and
inactivity,” said the statement’s lead author, Victor Strasburger, MD,
FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.
“American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping
children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough
exercise, and not enough sleep.”
contains recommendations to help pediatricians mitigate the effects of
media on children’s and teens’ body weight, including:
Be aware that
children with high levels of screen time also have more stress,
putting them at risk not only for obesity but for a number of other
conditions such as diabetes, mood disorders and asthma.
The policy also
recommends that pediatricians work with other child health advocates at
the local, state and national levels for:
ago, the federal government ruled that young children are
psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000
to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast
food,” said Dr. Strasburger.
The AAP has long
recommended that pediatricians ask two questions about media use at
each well-child (or well-adolescent) visit: How much time is the child
spending on screens each day? And is there a TV set or Internet
connection in the child's bedroom?
conversation around these two questions can go a long way toward a
thoughtful approach to each family’s - and each child’s - media use,
and that can quickly translate into healthier choices and healthier
weight,” Dr. Strasburger said.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians,
pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists
dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.