Children with bedroom TVs at greater risk of being overweight

06 June 2017
boy watching TV

A study of more than 12,000 children in the UK has found that those who have a television in the bedroom are more likely to be overweight.

The University College London (UCL) research found that girls who had a TV in the bedroom at the age of 7 had a 30% higher risk of being overweight at the age of 11.  For boys the risk was increased by about 20%.

The study, published In the International Journal of Obesity, found that over half of the 12,556 children sampled had a TV in their bedroom at age 7.

This finding is well in line with other recent reports on children’s media use, which also suggest that the increasing use of tablets and laptops in children’s bedrooms

UCL’s Dr Anja Heilmann says childhood obesity is a major public health issue and this study clearly identifies that a television in the bedroom is an influence.

 “We found that having a TV in the child’s bedroom was an independent risk factor for being overweight and increased body fatness in this nationally representative sample of UK children. Childhood obesity prevention strategies should consider TVs in children’s bedrooms as a risk factor for obesity.”

The number of hours spent watching TV or DVDs was associated with increased body fatness among girls only, meaning that the more TV girls watched, the more likely they were to be overweight.

Researchers say that part of the reason for this gender difference could be that girls are already far less physically active than boys at this young age.

“The causes of overweight and obesity are complex and multiple. Screen time is part of the bigger picture and further research is needed among older children and adolescents, as the use of screen-based media including computers, mobile phones and tablets increases with age,” Dr Heilmann says.

The research took a range of other obesity-linked factors into consideration, such as household income, mothers’ education, breastfeeding duration, physical activity and irregular bedtimes. 

In addition, children’s BMI at age 3 was included to minimise the possibility that being overweight in the first place leads to spending more time in front of a screen.

You can read the full paper on the links between a television in the bedroom and an increase in BMI here.