Children who have TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to be overweight than those who don't have bedroom TVs, according to new research from the UK.
Led by University College London, the large-scale study looked at 12,556 children in the UK using data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS).
From the sample over half of the children had a TV in their bedroom at age 7, a finding in line with other recent reports which suggest that children are increasingly using media devices in their bedrooms, including tablets and laptops.
The study also took into account obesity-linked factors, such as household income, mother's education, breastfeeding duration, physical activity and irregular bedtimes, as well as mother's BMI, as an indicator of the child's food environment and potential genetic influences.
Data was also collected on the child's BMI at age 3, to look at the possibility that being overweight as an infant leads to spending more time in front of a screen in childhood.
The results showed that at 11 years of age children had a significantly higher BMI and fat mass FMI and were more likely to be overweight if they had had TVs in their bedroom at age 7, compared to those children who hadn't.
Girls who had a TV in their bedroom at age 7 were around 30% more like to be overweight at age 11, and boys around 20% more likely.
In addition, the results also suggested that as the number of hours watching TV or DVDs increased so did the level of body fatness, but amongst girls only, with the researchers suggesting that at this young age, girls are far less physically active than boys, as found in previous studies.
Dr. Anja Heilmann from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care warned, "Childhood obesity in the UK is a major public health problem. In England, about one third of all 11 year olds are overweight and one in five are obese. Our study shows that there is a clear link between having a TV in the bedroom as a young child and being overweight a few years later."
"Childhood obesity prevention strategies should consider TVs in children's bedrooms as a risk factor for obesity."
Dr. Heilmann also added that as the use of media devices such as computers, mobile phones and tablets increases with age, further research is now needed among older children and teens.
The findings can be found online in the International Journal of Obesity.