Reducing TV time may be an effective strategy for improving health and academic performance in teens

Watching television for more than two hours a day increases the participation in other sedentary activities in adolescents, according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Adolescent obesity is a growing world health issue, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyles that contribute to becoming overweight or obese. One concern is the impact that children’s media has on the physical and mental health of young people. Many studies have argued that there is a relationship between television viewing and obesity in children and adolescents. It is also established that spending large amounts of time in sedentary activities is a risk for obesity, even in those who are fairly active.

Television viewing is associated with obesity because people often snack on high fat and sugar foods whilst watching TV which leads to a calorie surplus and a reduction in fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. Additionally, excessive TV viewing reduces the time spent doing physical activity and reduces the resting metabolic rate. Previously, studies have shown that watching more than 2 hours of TV a day is associated with poorer health, visual difficulties, depression and anxiety. Until now, few studies have focused on the impact of television viewing on self-rated health, academic performance and participation in other sedentary activities in adolescents.

The study, conducted by researchers at Yonsei University, Korea involved questionnaire and interview responses from 1234 students in Lima, Peru. The results showed that adolescents spend the majority of their free time watching television, playing video games or on the internet but only 23.1% watched TV for more than 2 hours per day. Watching TV was related to increased video game participation in males and older adolescents and increased internet use in all participants. The results also revealed that TV viewing had a negative impact on health and academic performance. Although the adolescents in this study were all from a specific location, the results of this study are comparable to similar studies in the USA.

Overall, the study shows that watching more than 2 hours of TV a day increases participation in sedentary activities such as video game and internet use. The results suggest that reducing the time adolescents spend watching TV could increase their participation in physical activity and improve their health and academic performance.