In my weight management clinic, I’m always telling parents to remove the TV in their child’s bedroom, both to improve their sleep and decrease their sedentary time. However, this typically is accompanied by complaints about this request from their children. I’m often caught between allying with my patients and doing what’s right for their health. Researchers have found even more reasons for me to insist that they remove their TV from their bedroom – it is associated with higher sugary drink consumption.
Schwartz, et. al studied 480 middle school students recruited from 12 schools in a low-income, primarily minority school district. Students completed a baseline survey in 6th grade and a follow-up survey in 7th grade. They asked how many sugary drinks the children consumed the day prior to the survey, about the child’s perception of their parents’ controlling and nurturing behaviors, and finally if the child had a TV in their bedroom. They used the children’s reports of specific controlling and nurturing parenting behaviors to create an “authoritative parenting” score. First defined by psychologist Diana Baumrind, authoritative parents encourage their children to be independent while setting reasonable limits and controls on their behavior.
After controlling for age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, and sugary drink consumption in the 6th grade, the researchers found that having a TV in the bedroom was associated with higher sugary drink intake in the 7th grade. For those children without TVs in their bedrooms, each unit increase in authoritative parenting score meant that the children decreased their sugary beverage intake by 22% between 6th and 7th grade. However, for children with TVs in their bedroom, there was no buffering effect of more authoritative parenting.
This study suggests that parent’s efforts to limit sugary drinks can be weakened by exposure to TV in the child’s bedroom. Perhaps sharing this information with my patient families will convince my otherwise authoritative parents to remove the TV from their child’s bedroom.