Disconnecting TV from Food as a Strategy to Prevent Childhood Obesity
Hersey, J. C. (2005, December). Disconnecting TV from Food as a Strategy to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Presented at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.
Problem: Over the past decade the proportion of children who are at risk of overweight has doubled; there is mounting evidence that television viewing is associated with the problem. Possible mechanisms for this include eating while watching TV or eating more high fat, high sugar foods that are advertised on TV. There is evidence that children who consume food with the TV on consume more calories than children who eat with the TV off. What is not a clear is how to persuade families not to eat with TV on.
Methods: We conducted small group discussions with 180 parents and children ages 6-7, 9-10, and 12-13 along with their parents. Respondents were divided between white, African-American, and Hispanic youth in three cities.
Results: The study found that TV use in this sample was over 3 hours per day, and that 2/3 of households had a TV in the eating area, and more than half of children reported eating in front of the television. The data suggest that children's TV patterns are shaped by the norms of the family. Possible motivators for children's TV use will be desire for family time, and the importance of connecting with a family. This was a particularly strong appeal among Hispanic families.
Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of efforts to disconnect eating and TV as a strategy to reduce children's time spent in front of the screen and as an approach to develop healthier eating habits as a family.