FRC News

STRONG Kids Researchers Find That Pre-schoolers Eat More Sweets When Watching TV with Limited Supervision

12/7/2011  8:00 am

Two researchers from the Family Resiliency Center's STRONG Kids Program have discovered that pre-schoolers who watch television are more prone to eating sweet and salty foods compared to fruits and vegateables.

Dr. Kristen Harrison, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan and director of the U-M Media, Youth, and Health Lab, along with Dr. Janet Liechty, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, spent three years with a team collecting data as part of the STRONG Kids Program from more than 400 parents and 350 children between the ages of two and four.  The STRONG Kids Program take a multidisciplinary approach to examine how community, family, genetic, child care, cultural, and media factors contribute to childhood obesity.

In this new study that appears in the current issue of the Journal of Children and Media, the investigators collected information around children's television viewing habits (including internet and video game usage) throughout the day and also obtained physical measurements of the children. It found that even pre-school children will be more prone to eating salty and sweet foods compared to fruits and vegetables while sitting in front of the TV.  This study highlights the importance of parents and caregivers being aware of their children's TV viewing and dietary habits before these habits culminate in a child being overweight.  The study also found that parents who were most strict about the time allowed for their children to watch TV were most successful in changing the eating habits of their children.     

As childhood obesity becomes a national priority, much attention and focus is being given to the 2- and 5-year old set.  These types of studies are important in showing how children become overweight as a result of early TV exposure.  

The Family Resiliency Center strives to advance the knowledge and practice that can strengthen families' abilities to meet life's challenges and thrive.  The Center accomplishes this goal by supporting and conducting cross-disciplinary research with experts both on campus and throughout the nation.