The average child will see more than 40 000 television commercials each year, in addition to frequent product placements in television shows and movies. In a diverse sample of third- and fourth-grade students, Chamberlain and colleagues found that children who report more screen media exposure at the beginning of the third grade would report more requests for advertised toys, food, and drinks through the end of the fourth grade than those with less screen time. Third-graders had nearly 23 hours of reported screen media use per week. This study supports efforts to limit the exposure of children to product advertisements.
Wiecha and colleagues studied 548 students (mean age, 11.7 years) from 5 schools in Massachusetts and observed them for nearly 2 years. Each additional hour of television viewing was associated with 167 additional calories per day, with increases in consumption of foods commonly advertised on television. Although children and youth are encouraged to watch what they eat, many youth appear to eat what they watch and in the process increase their risk for excessive energy intake.
During the last 5 years, the average time spent playing video games by 8- to 18-year-olds nearly doubled. While the mature (M) rating of video games should lead to restrictions on children's exposure to the content in these games, the limited existing data suggest that many children younger than 17 years play M-rated games. In a random sample of M-rated video games available in 2004, all involved intentional acts of violence, which accounted for more than one third of game play time. All of the games rewarded or required the player to injure human characters. An average of 145 characters died per hour of game play. One third of the games had sexual themes and two thirds used profanity an average of 17 times per hour. Nearly all of the teen-rated games depicted violence as well. Children's exposure to violence from these games is potentially enormous.
Cumulative percentage of video games with all content types observed by duration of game play.
The relationship between television viewing and risk of being overweight has been most thoroughly described for school-aged children. Lumeng and colleagues studied a national sample of 1016 children in preschool. Six percent of the children were overweight by 36 months of age and 10% by 54 months. More than two thirds of the children were exposed to 2 or more hours of television per day. Television exposure predicted overweight status at 36 months but not at 54 months.
This Month in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(4):340. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.4.340