TV Makes Toddlers Fat, But Who Really Cares?

Say What!? 21

toddler tvIf you've managed to get through the day without feeling guilty about anything please allow me to introduce this news: Apparently toddlers who watch too much television grow up to have larger waistlines. YES, researchers went there. Thank you, researchers!

In case you wanted to open this gnarly bag of parent-blaming worms: A study measured how much television a group of four-year-olds watched and then measured those kids' waistlines when they were ten years old. Kids who'd watched 18 hours of TV a week were 7.6 millimeters bigger around the waist than kids who'd watched just 14.8 hours. Oh, and the little TV fanatics also couldn't jump as far as their TV-deprived peers.

Okay, let's put this in perspective: 7.6 millimeters is equal to 0.29 inches. I mean, it's not nothing. It's a quarter of a inch. But it's not like the kids who watched more TV all grew up to be obese.

There does seem to be a connection between watching television as a toddler and your physical fitness later on. I think it's pretty safe to say that once you get started with certain TV habits it's hard to cut back. And a kid who watches more television is a kid who is spending less time actively playing. I don't think it's healthy for toddlers to watch very much television at all. Less is definitely more.

But here's something interesting the researchers say: "Watching more television not only displaces other forms of educational and active leisurely pursuits but also places them at risk of learning inaccurate information about proper eating." In other words, if your kid watches a lot of TV they're probably taking in a lot of commercials for crap food. Unless of course your kid is mostly watching public television or a video, which have no commercials.

And this, my friends, is how I sometimes justified letting my toddler watch TV every once in a while when I needed a moment to work, clean, or have a moment alone with my thoughts. I figured as long as it was public television at least it was vaguely educational and at least he wasn't watching a bunch of commercials. But here's the worst part: I'm pretty sure I never even kept track of how many hours of television my son watched.

Do you keep track of how many hours of television your toddler or preschooler watches?

Image via Joelk75/Flickr


in the news, learning, toddler activities, toddler health


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banan... banana-bear

Makes sense! My kids only watch videos and Netflix, but there is no way they'd break 18 hours/week. Holy crap, that's a lot!

mamab... mamabunny2010

Whaaat!? Children that sit in front of a TV screen are fatter than kids that don't! Holy moly! Which Ph.D. got a million dollar government grant to figure that one out? Next they'll be researching how kids that eat fast food are more likely to be fat! These scientists are GENIUSES, I tell you!! Give them more money!

trini... trinity899

LOL mamabunny.  My sarcasm detector is off the charts!  :)

Misty... Misty.Dawn

my 5 1/2 yr old rarely watches tv. He watches a movie at bedtime...but video games. Crap, now THATS where we have a problem lol he does still really love to go outside & play but its so dang hot outside, he doesnt stay out there for very long. Thats why we take trips to the lake as often as possible :)

nonmember avatar Jess

My daughter started watching Netflix when she was almost one. Not all the time, usually only when I need to distract her or calm her down. But she gets bored and only watches for ten minutes maybe.

I can see how a toddle might watch that much a week. It's only about 2.5 hours a day. If the tv is always on a kids station like Disney or PBS, then it can happen easily WHILE the kids are playing. Most of my baby cousins play all day and the tv is on all day and they take breaks to watch shows, but it's not like they're just plopped in front of the tv all day, zoned out.

I hate how studies like this make people automatically judgmental.

butte... butterflyfreak

My daughter (almost 5) usually watches a LOT of TV, mostly it was just on one of her channels and she would watch off and on throughout the day. She was also allowed to play with the iPad, computers and smartphones. Well, she displayed ATROCIOUS behavior when we were on vacation a couple weeks ago so we have taken away all of her electronics privileges and limited her to one hour a day for the TV. She will start to earn back some of the privileges on Friday, although we have decided she will not have unlimited access like before. We have really enjoyed watching her play with her toys and actually use her imagination and we're afraid of her losing that if she has unlimited access to to her electronics again. I will say that I think this may have been the most brilliant discipline move we have ever made! Now when she starts to misbehave, all I have to do is threaten to take away her hour of TV and she straightens right up! I know, it's probably not that great that she's so reliant on her 'tronics, but we are a techie family and at least now I know I have leverage. LOL

nikol... nikolita87

I don't think watching TV is a problem for children as long as they do get outside and play, and do other activities. I grew up watching TV frequently, but I was also very active in sports and extracurriculars. I also used to draw or color in front of the TV. Am I overweight or obese? Nope. My son watches kids shows and I don't mind because he eats pretty healthy and we make sure he goes outside and plays basketball or rides his bike. Moderation is key.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

18 hours a week is more than 2 hours a day! Way too much for a toddler. Get outside, go to the park, go to the library, visit Grandma. All of these are first-hand learning experiences for your toddler. TV? Not so much.

aReal... aRealteenMother

I also grew up watching tv a lot. Since we fought over it so much, we ended up each only getting to pick two shows but my brother and I coordinated and we ended up both watching more than my sister lol. But even after the rule was lifted, and before it was in place, we played outside or with toys a lot. 2 1/2 hours of tv a day does not necessarily make you an obese adult.

Burie... BuriedAlive636

This research is only valid if all the kid does is sit in front of the TV all day and does nothing more. My three year old is a solid 30 pounds at just an inch above three feet. On my days off, I have the tv on NickJr most of the day (NickJr has no commercials) and even when he's watching tv, he doesn't sit still. He'll jump around and yell the answers to whatever questions are being asked on the show and he counts and sings and dances. He still goes out to play and when he's outside he goes crazy like any normal kid. The "tv makes kids fat" debate should be soo dead by now, research should'nt even be necessary. TV can be used as one of many learning tools and it's a great way to interact with your kids and watch and help them learn. You just have to be willing to participate & not use excuses or blame other things where you may be slightly lacking in the parenting department. There's always room for improvement. We all know there's no such thing as a "perfect parent" but as long as your kids are happy, healthy & safe, it's a job well done.

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