Attention to TV is key link between screen media use and obesity

April 10, 2013

Using a new research method that tracks moment-by-moment use of electronic media by young people, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have shown that paying attention to TV is strongly associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI). The study, published in the May 2013 issue of Pediatrics (available online April 8), found no association between BMI and attention to video games or computers, despite the duration of use.

"These findings are based on real-time data on how kids are using media in today's complex, multitasking environment," says senior author Michael Rich, MD, MPH and Director of the Center on Media and at Boston Children's Hospital. "They indicate that it is not just how much time we use screen media, but the content to which we pay attention and what we do while watching that increases risk of obesity."

The researchers looked at 91 teens aged 13 to 15, measuring their height and weight to calculate their BMI. The teens recorded their weekday and Saturday media use, including television, computers and video games on fixed as well as mobile screens. The youth used a to report what they were doing at random times over a week. When the computer prompted them, teens noted what they were doing and which activity they were paying the most attention to—for example, sports/activities, homework, other people, or media. Participants reported more than using any other screen media, with an average of more than 3 hours per day.

"The association between TV and increased BMI may be explained by exposure to TV ads for high calorie, nutritionally questionable foods, and eating while watching TV, which distracts from natural signals the body gives for when it is hungry or satisfied," says lead author David Bickham, PhD.

This study is based on the first findings from Measuring Youth , a new research method that takes an intensive, moment-by-moment look at how young people use in their daily lives, which has been developed to investigate links between media exposure and physical, mental, and social health issues among children and adolescents.

Explore further: When teens focus on TV, obesity risk rises

Related Stories

When teens focus on TV, obesity risk rises

April 8, 2013
(HealthDay)—It's not how much time teens spend watching TV but how intensely they watch that adds on the pounds, new research suggests.

Pre-schoolers eat more sweets when watching TV with limited supervision

December 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- It's no surprise that TV viewing has an effect on our eating habits, but a new study shows that even pre-schoolers planted in front of the set are more prone to eating sweets and salty foods instead of ...

The Medical Minute: How to counter media messages on sex

July 26, 2011
On television, in music videos, on the Internet and in movies, explicit sexual content is everywhere -- and children are often prime targets.

Active, outdoor teens are happier teens: study

June 22, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Teens who engaged in more moderate-to-vigorous outdoor activity reported better health and social functioning than their peers who spent hours in front of television and computer screens, a new study in Australia ...

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.