It’s not just the time, it’s the content

Attention to TV is key link between screen media use and obesity. ParentHub, April 22, 2013.

Arguably a ground breaking article regarding the causal nature of the media on childhood obesity. Not only does this article out of Boston Children’s Hospital make the case for such a connection via hard data. It also makes another important point: This issue may not just be the amount of screen time a child experiences but the content of the screen time. Another key factor involves the messages flowing from the media screen, in the form of TV commercials that present many calorie-laden items as irresistible.

The research technique used is quite intriguing. The 91 kids studied by the Children’s Hospital group were tracked moment to moment via a hand held media device so that the researchers could track precisely what they might be doing on a very precise basis. The outcome was clear; kids watching plenty of TV, wherein many commercials that make so many nutritionally questionable foods looking awfully delicious, were the ones most affected in terms of developing body mass problems.

The study was done with teens who could work well with the hand held media device that tracked their every activity. Another reason, aside from the attractive way in which unhealthy foods were presented, that might play a role in the kids with the most TV time developing weight problems is the fact that kids often lose themselves in TV screens while they’re eating, and this may render them more impervious to even noticing that they are sated and so they keep eating.

A valuable study indeed, and it does appear as though the technique for tracking moment to moment media involvement with kids will be utilized in tracking other potential pitfalls of over-saturation with the media.