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Well, Duh! New Study Confirms That TV Inspires Kids to Eat More Junk Food

Report Finds that TV is Unhealthy for Kids
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

In a study confirming what most of us have probably suspected all along, researchers have found that television encourages young people to eat more junk food and paves the way to obesity and other significant health issues.

Scientists Leah Lipsky and Ronal Iannotti at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that, for every hour of television children watch, they are 8% less likely to eat fruit, 18% more likely to eat candy, and 16% more likely to eat fast food every day.

Given that television assails viewers with ads for fast food, candy and soda, the findings probably aren’t that surprising. But the study also suggests that, since kids tend to snack when in front of the TV, they could be encouraged to eat better if healthier choices are within reach.

“If you have other options available, and don’t have the unhealthy options available, then children might be encouraged to possibly eat more fruit,” said Lipsky.

Watching TV doesn’t just contribute to obesity in kids, the report goes on to say. It also sets kids up for diseases that come with being overweight, such as diabetes, sleep apnea and heart problems. TV, of course, also promotes inactivity, and encourages kids to be sedentary when they could be burning calories through exercise instead.

So, what’s the solution? Lipsky and Iannotti recommend that parents limit the amount of time children spend in front of a TV or computer. For younger children, that means no more than two hours a day. They also said to replace junk food with healthier snacks, such as fruit or nuts.

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