The negative effects on children of watching too much television are well known, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended children not watch more than two hours a day.
New research from the University of Minnesota has found that teens who watch more than five hours of TV a day are more likely to become fast food junkies when they grow up.
The study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity followed 1,366 high school students and 564 middle school students. Data was collected on the number of hours spent watching TV every day, which was then compared to their dietary habits five years later. According to Natural News:
The researchers found that high school students who watched over 5 hours of TV each day consumed less fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods as young adults, and instead had a higher intake of fast food, fried foods, snack foods, sugary drinks as well as foods with trans fats.
Granted five hours is a lot of time to be spending in front of the TV set, but apparently it is not that uncommon. It appears two factors are at play in causing children who watch TV to have poor diets as young adults. First, advertising on television for fast food and junk food has an impact. Second, the sedentary nature of watching television causes children to exercise less and snack while watching, usually on foods they have seen advertised on commercials. Frederick J Zimmerman, an assistant professor at the Child Health Institute of the University of Washington, explains:
This research tugs not so gently at the wool in front of all of our eyes – revealing that heavy TV viewing, especially of food advertising – makes a difference to our children`s diets…his research suggests that heavy TV-viewing adolescents consume about 200 more calories per day than those who watch a moderate amount of TV. That is a lot of calories by anyone`s count.
Good parenting and moderation can avoid these effects. Limiting television watching to commercial-free programming and only feeding your child healthy food will make them resilient. Families can practice not eating while watching television, and follow the advice of Kimberly M Thompson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at the Harvard School of Public Health, “You could also require that for every hour of TV viewed, each member of the family needs to engage in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise.”