TV's health risks to children
8 December 2006
A study undertaken by the University's NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity has found that as many as two thirds of NSW children are spending more than the recommended maximum of two hours per day in front of a small screen.
Published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the survey of 11 to 15 year olds found that half of secondary school students spent 2-4 hours per day engaged in small screen recreation (ie viewing television, videos, DVDs and computer use for fun), while 32 per cent of secondary school boys and 22 per cent of secondary school girls spent more than 4 hours per day involved in these activities.
Dr Louise Hardy, postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Overweight and Obesity and lead researchers on the study says that children's over use of this type of media must be considered a major health issue.
'Students in late primary and early high school are so engrossed in sedentary screen-based recreation that it reduces their involvement in sports, music and other leisure pursuits,' said Dr Hardy. 'What has changed over the years is the number of small screens around the house, along with televisions in the bedroom, children are also more involved in online interaction in the form of emails and blogs,' she said.
The study sample comprised 2750 school students (979 primary; 1771 secondary). Generally the study found that primary school students and girls were more likely to be in the low use category (less than 2 hours per day) compared with secondary school students.
Dr Hardy and her team also found that children who were overweight were slightly more likely than others to be high users of television and computer games. 'Evidence also suggests that behaviours associated with small screen recreation during childhood track into adulthood, potentially leading to long-term energy imbalance and weight gain,' said Dr Hardy.
'The first steps for intervention programmes to reduce small screen recreation should be to work towards moderate decreases initially; otherwise young people may perceive meeting the guideline as unrealistic and unachievable,' said Dr Hardy. 'Strategies that target factors in the family and home environment that influence young people's small screen recreation, including rules on usage and eating in front of the television, are needed.'
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
Phone: +61 2 9351 4312 or 0421 617 861