Childhood weight gain has now been linked to rife technology use, with children that have TVs in their bedrooms gaining an extra pound, on average, per year.
Two separate studies, both published in JAMA Pediatrics on March 3, discuss the impact of television and video games on children's weight management. The first study, Effects of a Pediatric Weight Management Program With and Without Active Video Games, looked at physically engaging video games to ascertain whether or not such games had a positive influence on weight. The second study, Association of a Television in the Bedroom With Increased Adiposity Gain in a Nationally Representative Sample of Children and Adolescents, was the first of its kind to examine whether the presence of a television in a child's bedroom constituted additional risk of obesity.
In the television study, 6,522 middle school children aged 10 to 14 were surveyed over the course of four years, with adiposity - or fat levels - measured at two and four year intervals. Those with televisions in their rooms were found to have increased Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) at both intervals of the study, thought to be due to interrupted sleeping patterns and sedentary habits. "It's well known that kids who continue to watch TV while the parents are already in bed will have disrupted sleep patterns," said Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the gastroenterology division at the Miami Children's Hospital. "We know that increases weight. When kids have TV in the bedroom, they isolate themselves from the family. They tend to go to bed later. They tend to be less active. They tend to snack on junk food. All of this will increase weight."
Dr. Muinos, who also heads up an obesity clinic, was not involved with the study. However, lead author Diane Gilbert-Diamond, assistant professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, was adamant that removal of television sets would reduce the risk of obesity. "Removing a TV from a child's bedroom is a single concrete action that a parent can take to help reduce their child's risk of excessive weight gain," she said.
The video game study proved a little more optimistic, noting that active gamers lost nearly twice as much weight - 10.9 percent of their body weight - over the course of four months than other children on standard weight management programs, who lost around 5.5 percent of their body weight. Observing the effects on 75 overweight and obese children around ten years of age, lead author Stewart Trost of the University of Queensland in Australia noted that children who played active video games increase their moderate-to-vigorous activity by 7.4 minutes per day, and vigorous activity by nearly three minutes per day.
"The latest and greatest active video games that require players to move their whole body are an appealing way to promote exercise among overweight and obese children," said Trost. The study was not funded by the video game industry, and while the use of active video games increases physical activity, the effects of such games within a set weight management regime remain unknown.