MONDAY, April 7, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Although your teenager may poignantly plead that he or she is the only child left in America without a bedroom television, health experts recommend that parents stand their ground and keep TV out of the bedroom.
There seems to be a good reason for this. The latest research, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, shows that having a bedroom television not only leads to more TV viewing, but also results in less time spent with the family, less time exercising, lower fruit and vegetable intake, more sweetened beverage consumption, and in lower grades.
"The big take-home message from our study is that TVs should be removed from kids' bedrooms, and it could have a positive effect on kids' health," said the study's lead author, Daheia Barr-Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Adolescent Health Protection Research Training Program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.
Health professionals have been warning for years about too much television watching among young people, and especially about making the TV set so easily accessible. But past research suggests that many parents aren't heeding that advice. About 68 percent of American youngsters have televisions in their bedrooms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
One large study found that children between ages 8 and 18 spend more than three hours every day watching television. Numerous studies have been done to assess TV's effect on young children, but research on bedroom TVs and older adolescents is scarce, according to the current study.
Barr-Anderson and her colleagues gathered information on the presence of a bedroom TV and socio-demographic, behavioral and personal characteristics through a questionnaire mailed to 781 teens who were an average age of 17.2 years.
The results mirrored past studies. Almost two-thirds of this group had a TV in their bedroom. Having a personal TV doubled the risk that a teen would regularly watch more than five hours of TV daily, compared to teens without a television in the bedroom.
Teenage girls who had a bedroom TV watched an average of 20.7 hours each week, about 5 hours more than female teens without a bedroom TV (15.2 hours). For boys with TVs, 22.2 hours were spent in front of the tube, compared to 18.2 hours for boys without personal TVs.
Both girls and boys with bedroom TVs attended fewer family dinners -- about one less per week -- than kids without their own sets. Girls with TVs ate slightly fewer vegetables each day, while boys with TVs consumed less fruit.
Girls with TVs in their bedrooms participated in less physical activity, and boys with bedroom TVs had lower grade point averages.
"For most kids, a TV in the bedroom is not a healthy thing," said Anita Gurian, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City. "It's not bad for all kids; there are those who use it constructively, and there is a lot of good stuff on TV, but it definitely has its downside," she said.
"Parents should know that research has shown TV's deleterious effects on grades, eating habits, in attraction to violence, and most importantly, in social relationships," added Gurian. "If teens are in their bedrooms, watching TV for three hours a day, they don't have time to develop relationships or to do homework," she said.
Barr-Anderson said she suspects it's not always an intentional plan to give the child a TV. Instead, it's usually because the family has upgraded to a larger TV, and now has a spare set. She recommended that parents resist the pressure they'll likely feel to put the extra TV in their teen's bedroom. "You may experience a backlash, but parents have to do what's best for their child," said Barr-Anderson.
To learn more about how TV effects your child or teen, visit the Nemours Foundation's KidsHealth Web site.