Watching How Much Kids Watch TV

Mothers monitoring TV time of children may help reduce weight gain risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Children who spend a lot of time watching TV are more likely to be overweight, according to past research. But parents can make a difference.

A recent study found that the children of mothers who monitored their children's media use were not as likely to gain weight as children whose parents didn't monitor their media time.

The same effect was not seen when fathers monitored their children's media time, however.

The researchers concluded that more monitoring of children's time spent using media may reduce the likelihood that those children will gain weight related to media time.

"Monitor your children's media time."

The study, led by Stacey S. Tiberio, PhD, of the Oregon Social Learning Center at Oregon State University, looked at how much parents' monitoring of children's media influenced children's weight.

The researchers gathered information from the parents of 213 children three times between June 1998 through September 2012.

When the children were 5, 7 and 9 years old, the researchers asked the 112 mothers and 103 fathers about how much they monitored their children's activities and their media exposure.

The researchers also asked about children's participation in sports and other activities, the children's time spent using or watching media, the family's income and the parents' educational level and body mass index.

Body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of a person's height to weight and is frequently used to determine whether a person is a healthy weight.

An analysis of the interview responses revealed that more monitoring of children's media by their mothers was linked to lower BMIs among the children when they were 7 years old.

The children whose mothers more closely monitored their media exposure also gained weight more slowly between ages 5 and 9 compared to the children whose mothers monitored their media less.

These findings remained even when the researchers took into account differences among the parents' monitoring of other activities, the parents' BMI, the family's income and the parents' educational levels.

Even taking into account the children's other activities, such sports and other recreational activities and even their media watching time, did not change the link between their weight and their mothers' monitoring of their TV use.

"These findings suggest that parental behaviors related to children’s media consumption may have long-term effects on children’s BMI in middle childhood," the researchers wrote.

However, the researchers did not find any links between the children's BMIs and the amount of monitoring their fathers might have done with regards to their media use.

Tracie Newman, MD, a pediatrician with Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, said it's important for parents to engage with their children regarding what the kids watch.

"We recommend less than two hours a day of total screen time, no televisions in bedrooms and active television watching with parents," she said. "Parents should always be aware of what children are watching."

The study was published March 17 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Child Health and Development, the Sweden-America Foundation, the Swedish Society for Medical Research and the Vinnmer Marie Curie International Qualification.

Review Date: 
March 16, 2014
Last Updated:
March 30, 2014