Context. Television (TV) viewing is associated with obesity among school-aged children, adolescents, and adults, but this relationship has not been evaluated in preschool-aged children.
Objective. To describe the TV/video viewing habits of a multiethnic, low-income preschool population of children and to determine whether TV/video viewing is related to their adiposity.
Design. Cross-sectional survey of parents/guardians with measurements of children’s height and weight.
Setting and Participants. Two thousand seven hundred sixty-one adults with children, 1 through <5 years, from 49 New York State agencies of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Outcome Measures. Cross-sectional relationships between the amount of time the child spends viewing TV/video and the presence of a TV set in the child’s bedroom, with the prevalence of overweight children (body mass index [BMI] >85th percentile) after adjustment for potential confounders.
Results. Mean TV/video viewing times were higher among black children and Hispanic children than white children and increased with the child’s age. In multiple logistic regression, the odds ratio of children having a BMI >85th percentile was 1.06 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.004–1.11) for each additional hour per day of TV/video viewed, independent of child age, child sex, parental educational attainment, and race/ethnicity. Almost 40% of children had a TV set in their bedroom; they were more likely to be overweight and spent more time (4.6 hours per week) watching TV/video than children without a TV in their bedroom. In multiple logistic regression, the odds ratio of having a BMI >85th percentile was 1.31 (95% CI: 1.01–1.69) among those with a TV in their bedroom versus those without a TV, after statistical adjustment for child age, child sex, child TV/video viewing hours per week, maternal BMI, maternal education, and race/ethnicity.
Conclusions. This study extends the association between TV viewing and risk of being overweight to younger, preschool-aged children. A TV in the child’s bedroom is an even stronger marker of increased risk of being overweight. Because most children watch TV by age 2, educational efforts about limiting child TV/video viewing and keeping the TV out of the child’s bedroom need to begin before then.