Kids Eat More in Front of the TV
> 5/23/2008 12:43:00 PM


This piece of news will likely confirm the anecdotal evidence of many parents: kids tend to consume more calories while watching television, whether they feel hungry or not. This observation was backed up by experimentation when researchers published a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that confirmed that the TV screen encourages kids to sit for extended periods while snacking excessively.

The study took a unique look at the epidemic, starting with a group of 30 kids, ages 9 to 12, whose weight measured out to around the national average for their age. To begin, the kids were all placed in front of computers and told to complete given tasks in order to earn half a cheesburger. After seven minutes, separate groups were established: some of the kids continued as before, where some were offered French fries for finishing the job, and others were placed in front of a television while continuing to work toward the cheeseburger. The group who stayed at the computer amid repeated cheeseburger offers seemed to lose interest in the food after eating, while those offered fries were stimulated by the introduction of a new prize, and those who sat in front of the TV simply continued to eat.

In another experiment researchers gave children a set amount of a favorite snack food and told them they could eat as much as they liked. Among this group, some watched a standard TV show, some watched a repeating 1 1/2 minute video loop, and some watched nothing at all. The results of this test were even more skewed than researchers expected: those watching the show ate more than the other two groups combined, while those who were shown the looped video eventually lost interest and ate less. Other studies have indicated that, even among the adult population, people eat more frequently and consume more calories overall when meals are accompanied by television.

Parents are central to deterring this unhealthy trend. A first step is laying out clear positions (or establishing a "TV diet") to regulate not only what kids watch but how much time they spend in front of the screen each day. It should come as no surprise that watching too much TV contributes directly to obesity, decreased cardiovascular health, and countless related physical deficiencies. Research has only further confirmed its trance-inducing power.

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