A recent study released in Pediatrics looks at mounting research showing that a child's media use may be linked to their body weight, not only due to the fact that they don't get as much exercise if they are watching TV and using other media, but also due to other issues related to media exposure.
The new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, entitled "Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media," states that, "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."
The new AAP policy statement reiterates that parents need to be paying attention to the amount of "screen" time their children get daily. Total non-educational screen time (again, the definition of "educational" may vary from family to family) should be no more than 2 hours per day. This limit should also be enforced in child care centers, after school programs and community centers, the AAP states.
According to the statement, the many ads for junk food and fast food only increase a child's desire for these foods. It's easy to keep your children from begging for Cocoa Puffs or Fruit Loops (just randomly selected, you can fill in your cereal) if they've never seen ads for these sugary cereals.
Children who are allowed to stay up late at night watching TV are not only exposed to numerous ads, but at the same time they don't get enough sleep -- a combination that puts them at greater risk for childhood obesity.
Dr. Victor Strasburger, one of the lead author for the policy statement, notes: "Kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food." By asking parents and their children about screen time, pediatricians can encourage a family to have a well thought out plan for limiting such exposure while encouraging outside activity.
These recommendations will hopefully translate into less screen time, less exposure to advertising, less sedentary activity and ultimately a healthier weight for children.
What do you think? I would love your comments and feedback.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.)