Too much TV time before the age of two found to contribute to poor diet, diminished academic performance

Researchers from the Université de Montréal have determined that children who watched excessive amounts of television before they reached the age of two tended to develop unhealthy diets and perform below expectations at school. The results of their longitudinal study were published in Preventive Medicine.

  • The participants are a birth cohort of nearly 2,000 Quebec boys and girls born between 1997 and 1998. The longitudinal study began tracking them when they turned five months old.
  • The children were born before smartphones, tablets, and viewing guidelines established by pediatric experts.  Their parents considered TV to be harmless and permitted their children to watch anywhere from one to four hours each day.
  • Their parents described their daily television habits at the age of two years. The 13-year-old teenagers themselves were surveyed about their diet and school behavior.
  • The study found that every additional one hour and 13 minutes toddlers got to watch television resulted in an 8.2 percent increase in the consumption of unhealthy food when they turned 13. Watching TV in the early morning reduced the amount of breakfast eaten by 10 percent and resulted in even greater amounts of television consumption as teens.
  • Researchers compared their results against those from children who only watched one hour of TV per the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Their subjects ate more unhealthy food, skipped breakfast more often, had a higher body-mass index (BMI), were more addicted to television, and were less interested in school compared to kids who consumed less TV.

Based on the results of their study, the researchers believed that toddlers should be encouraged to take up mentally-stimulating habits to ensure their development into healthy adolescents, instead of spending idle time watching television.

Journal Reference:

Simonato I, Janosz M, Archambault I, Pagani LS. PROSPECTIVE ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN TODDLER TELEVIEWING AND SUBSEQUENT LIFESTYLE HABITS IN ADOLESCENCE . Preventive Medicine. 2018;110:24–30. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.02.008

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