Children better off with less TV: expert

The Southland Times 10/08/2009

If you don’t want an obese child who is likely to smoke and flunk school, then turn off the television and put them to bed, a childhood researcher says. At the Early Childhood Education conference in Queenstown on Saturday , Dr Bob Hancox said excessive television watching was as bad as a poor diet or inactivity when it came to obesity. Speaking to The Southland Times yesterday, Dr Hancox said if all children watched less than two hours of television daily, obesity would be cut by about 15 per cent.

“If people are watching television they are not exercising,” he said. “There is also evidence that people eat more and eat different things while watching television.” Every hour of television children watched beyond two hours meant they were about 15 per cent more likely to leave school without a qualification and about 25 per cent less likely to get a university degree.

Dr Hancox also said for obesity, lack of sleep was as bad as television. Children between 5 and 11 who had less than 11 hours’ sleep were far more likely to become obese, he said. Dr Hancox is the deputy director of Otago University’s Multidisciplinary Heath and Development Research Unit, which is tracking the lives of 1000 New Zealanders born in 1972 and 1973. The study’s previous check on the group was at age 32 in 2005. Another check would be done next year, he said.