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Why Watching Your Kid’s Media Use May Affect Their Weight



sharma-obesity-family-watching-tvElectronic media consumption has been linked to childhood obesity – but does monitoring your kid’s media use affect their body weight?

This question was now addressed by Tiberio and colleagues in a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers examined longitudinal data from a community sample in the US Pacific Northwest that indluced 112 mothers, 103 fathers and their 213 kids aged five to nine years old.

The data included what parents reported on their general monitoring of their children (whereabouts and activities), specific monitoring of child media exposure, children’s participation in sports and recreational activities, children’s media time (hours per week), household annual income, and educational level as well as parental BMI was recorded.

It turns out that maternal (but not paternal) reports of monitoring their kid’s media exposure was associated with lower BMI z scores at age seven as well as less weight gain between five and seven years of age.

These findings remained significant even after adjustment for several other variables including total media time as well as sports and recreational activities.

From these findings, the authors conclude that,

Parental behaviors related to children’s media consumption may have long-term effects on children’s BMI in middle childhood.

And that these finding,

“…underscore the importance of targeting parental media monitoring in efforts to prevent childhood obesity.”

I would not go quite that far for several reasons.

Firstly, associations do not prove causation. In addition, we don’t know much about other aspects of parenting style from this study that may well also have impacted body weight.

Thus, we could well speculate that moms who monitor their kid’s media consumption may also be more adamant about bed times, healthy eating, or even just spending more time talking to or listening to their kids – all of which may well have positive effects on their kid’s weight.

This is why simply getting parents to be stricter about monitoring their kid’s media consumption may not result in better weights at all.

As always, I  find it disconcerting when epidemiological data is used to predict what may or may not happen when interventions target a proposed “cause”.

Nevertheless, for anyone interested in this topic, the following event may be of interest:

Details:

On May 1, 2014 the Alberta Teachers’ Association, in partnership with the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research, is pleased to invite Dr. Michael Rich and Dr. Valerie Steeves to Edmonton for a discussion on how technology is impacting children, youth and society. This is a continuation of our series of evening public lectures with world renowned and distinguished speakers that has included Sir Ken Robinson, Sherry Turkle, Yong Zhao, Jean Twenge, and Carl Honore.

Dr. Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, and principal investigator of the largest Canadian research study on children & teens’ online habits.

Young Canadians in a Wired World (2013) – Explore the highlights of Dr. Steeves’ pioneering Canadian research on children & teens’ online habits.

Ø  Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats

Ø  Online Privacy, Online Publicity 

Ø  Life Online

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, United States.

Ø Centre on Media and Child Health – Explore Dr. Rich’s extensive work on behalf of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health:

Ø CBC national panel discussion on Youth and Technology (February 2014):

Ø Ask the “Mediatrician” a question

There will also be a public lecture on Thursday evening May 1, 2014 entitled “Connected or Disconnected? Technology and Canadian Youth”.

Who: Dr. Michael Rich (Harvard University) and Dr. Valerie Steeves (University of Ottawa)

When: Thursday Evening, May 1, 2014

Where: Barnett House, Alberta Teachers’ Association, 11010 – 142 street NW Edmonton, Alberta

•6:00 pm Registration and reception (hors d’oeuvre and no host bar)

•7:00 pm to 9:30 pm Public lectures and discussions

Order Tickets ($10) Online at http://www.event-wizard.com/promiseperil2014/0/register/

For further information or any questions about this event please email karin.champion@ata.ab.ca or call 1-800-232-7208.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgTiberio SS, Kerr DC, Capaldi DM, Pears KC, Kim HK, & Nowicka P (2014). Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Consumption: The Long-term Influences on Body Mass Index in Children. JAMA pediatrics PMID: 24638968

1 Comment

  1. You say “we could well speculate that moms who monitor their kid’s media consumption may also be more adamant about bed times, healthy eating, or even just spending more time talking to or listening to their kids – all of which may well have positive effects on their kid’s weight.”

    But could it not also be that: monitoring your kid’s media consumption (as well as your own!) leads to spending more time talking or listening to your kids, be more adamant about bed times, care more about healthy eating (since not “contaminated” with all the ads!), etc-etc…?

    I would always be in favour of cutting media consumption both in children and in their parents!!

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