The American Academy of Pediatricians recently released a policy statement in its journal Pediatrics, saying media plays an important role in the obesity and overweight epidemic.
The AAP is recommending that pediatricians ask two questions during well-child visits:
- How much time per day does the child spend with screen media?
- Is there a TV in the bedroom or unrestricted Internet connection throughout the house?
The report states that multiple studies show there is a clear connection between media use and obesity in children. The report focuses on TV use because there is data that directly ties television screen time to obesity. Pediatricians are recommending that Congress fund research on how new media may be encouraging a sedentary life.
Pediatricians suggest that there are a number of ways TV contributes to obesity:
- TV replaces more active pursuits;
- Advertising promotes unhealthy eating;
- Children snack more while watching TV;
- Watching TV late at night interferes with normal sleep patterns. The report says there is evidence that sleep loss is associated with a greater risk of obesity.
Crystal Lake pediatrician Dr. Everett Weiss said it’s especially important for pediatricians to talk to parents in early childhood regarding media use, and to dissuade them from using TV as a convenient way to placate children.
“Children are a lot busier than they used to be. If they’re watching a lot of TV, there is less time for physical activities. There are not enough hours in a day,” Weiss said.
Weiss supports the ban on junk food advertising.
“It is a good recommendation. Children are developing their view of the world and they take in a lot every day, especially younger kids. It’s important to build healthy habits. Advertising is enticing and it’s designed to be that way. I fully support AAP; it’s a long time coming to put this in a policy statement,” Weiss said.
According to the report, obesity has doubled in children in the last three decades, and there are now more overweight and obese adults than adults of normal weight.
The report also restated AAP recommendations that parents limit non-educational screen time to two hours per day, avoid putting screen media in children’s bedrooms, and avoid screen time for children younger than age 2.
Jon Ashworth, team leader of the Lake County Obesity Prevention Initiative, said he definitely agrees with the recommendations regarding limiting screen time.
“I would also be very much in support of parents/caregivers having conversations with their child's primary care provider regarding their child's health-related habits, including media usage. The primary care provider can be a support and encouraging reinforcement for the parent/caregiver,” Ashworth said.