The "Couch-Potato" Generation

Kindergartners and first-graders are rapidly becoming mini-couch potatoes as they are spending more time sitting and watching television and less time actively playing and moving around. How much TV is too much?

Research shows that is doesn’t take much for young children to be considered couch potatoes. Kindergartners and first-graders who watch as little as one hour of TV a day are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to their peers who watch TV less than 60 minutes per day, according to a new study.

The study focuses on the specific link between television watching and obesity among kindergartners and first-graders. To do so, the researchers analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey of over 10,000 children who were enrolled in kindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year.

Parents of the children answered questions regarding their child’s lifestyle habits as well as their body mass index (BMI). A year later, the researchers measured children’s BMI and asked parents again about their child’s lifestyle habits.

Researchers found that kindergartners watched an average of 3.3 hours of television per day.

Kindergartners and first-graders who watched one to two hours or more of television per day had significantly higher BMIs than children who watched less than 30 minutes per day. Surprisingly, computer usage was not associated with weight gain in kindergartners and first-graders.

However, children who watch as little as one hour of daily television were 50-60% more likely to be overweight.

In addition, 58-73% more likely to be obese compared to children who watch less than an hour of television.

Children who watch one hour or more of television per day are 86% more likely to become obese between kindergarten and first grade. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends limiting children and teens to less than two hours of screen time per day. However, the findings from this study suggest that even that might be too much for young children in regards to television time. 

StepUp Summary:

At StepUp we believe that in early childhood, the strongest emphasis should be placed on physical activity that promotes both cognitive and motor development.

As in our recent post about the benefits of using movement to learn math, our programs focus on combining gross motor skills with early academic skills to engage children in learning while becoming more fluent in reading, math, and handwriting.


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