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Health And Video Games For Kids

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Health and video games

The number of overweight children in the United States is increasing dramatically.

Some have suggested a relationship between sedentary activities and this weight gain.

Researchers have found a relationship between health and video games usage.

Restricted access

Restricting access to video and television usage with an electronic control may help children lose weight.

Researchers selected overweight children in the top 25% for BMI (body mass index) and with a minimum of 14 hours of video and television weekly usage.

Dividing the children and their families into two groups, they gave one group of families with overweight children a TV Allowance control for all TV sets in the house that would automatically control individual time usage. The other families served as matched controls.

The children were monitored for two years.

In the homes where access to videos and television was electronically restricted, the children all reduced their video time by an average of 17.5 hours weekly.

They also lowered their BMI significantly compared to the control group.

The reduced BMI was associated with reduced calorie intake rather than increased exercise (Epstein LH, A randomized trial of the effects of reducing television viewing and computer use on body mass index in young children, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, March 2008).

No personal TVs?

Another factor to consider in monitoring children's health and video games usage is whether there is a television monitor in their bedroom.

Researchers worked with families of overweight children (BMI in the top 25%) who had a television in their bedroom and a control group of families with no bedroom TV.

They compared the parent's estimate of their children's viewing time with electronic objective measures.

In the control group with no bedroom TV, parents overestimated the children's viewing time by four hours weekly.

But in the group with a bedroom TV, parents underestimated their children's viewing time by three hours weekly.

Even more important was the difference in TV use between those with a bedroom TV and those without a bedroom TV.

If the children had their own TV in the bedroom, they spent almost 30 hours weekly watching television.

Without a bedroom TV, they only spent about 21 hours a week watching television (Robinson JL, Relationship between parental estimate and an objective measure of child television watching, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, November 2006).

30 hours a week is too much

Parents concerned about their children's health and video game usage find that 21 to 30 hours a week of video game/television time certainly cuts into exercise fitness, family time, social activities, chores, reading, homework, and may increase snacking.

The percentage of overweight children in the United States age 6 to 11 more than doubled in the last 20 years (7% in 1980 to 18.8% in 2004).

For adolescents age 12 to 19, the percentage of overweight individuals more than tripled, going from 5% in 1980 to 17.1% in 2004 (CDC, 2007).

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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on February 26, 2013

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