Alarm about the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity has focussed attention on individual lifestyle behaviours that may contribute to unhealthy weight. Television viewing is often a focus of the obesity debate. Not only is it sedentary, it also has the potential to influence other lifestyle behaviours either by displacing physical activities or through the consumption of high energy snack foods while watching TV. The research reported here uses data from 2,143 Australian 6–7 year children to examine the lifestyle behaviours associated with excess weight. These children spent 90 min each day watching television, 100 min each day in physical activity, and 39% consumed high levels of snack foods. Nearly one in five (18%) were overweight or obese. After adjustment for family and child characteristics, more time spent watching television was associated with more snacking and less physical activity. However, television viewing was associated with children’s weight status, but snacking and physical activities were not. These findings confirm the existence from a young age, of a cluster of lifestyle behaviours that are associated with unhealthy weight status.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Anderson, P. M., & Butcher, K. F. (2006). Childhood obesity: Trends and potential causes. The Future of Children, 16, 19–45.
Booth, M. L., Chey, T., Wake, M., Norton, K., Hesketh, K., & Robertson, I. (2003). Change in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young Australians, 1969–1997. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77, 29–36.
Burke, V., Beilin, L. J., Simmer, K., Oddy, W. H., Blake, K. V., Doherty, D., et al. (2005). Predictors of body mass index and associations with cardiovascular risk factors in Australian children: a prospective cohort study. International Journal of Obesity, 29, 15–23.
Cole, T. J., Bellizzi, M. C., Flegal, K. M., & Dietz, W. H. (2000). Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: International survey. British Medical Journal, 320(7244), 1240–1243.
Cutler, D. M., Glaeser, E. L., & Shapiro, J. M. (2003). Why have Americans become more obese? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 17, 93–118.
Dietz, W. H., Bandimi, L. G., Morelli, J. A., Peers, K. F., & Ching, P. L. (1994). Effect of sedentary activities on resting metabolic rate. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59, 556–559.
Dixon, J., & Broom, D. H. (2007). The seven deadly sins of obesity: How the modern world is making us fat. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
Dixon, H. G., Scully, M. L., Wakefield, M. A., White, V. M., & Crawford, D. A. (2007). The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children’s food attitudes and preferences. Social Science and Medicine, 65(7), 1311–1323.
Epstein, L. H., Roemmich, J. N., Robinson, J. L., Paluch, M. A., Winiewicz, D. D., Fuerch, J. H., et al. (2008). A randomized trial of the effects of reducing television viewing and computer use on body mass index in young children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 162, 239–245.
Fertig, A., Glomm, G., & Tchernis, R. (2006). The connection between maternal employment and childhood obesity: Inspecting the mechanisms (No. #2006-020). Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research.
Hesketh, K., Wake, M., & Waters, E. (2004). Body mass index and parent-reported self-esteem in elementary school children: Evidence for a causal relationship. International Journal of Obesity, 28(10), 1233–1237.
Kan, M. Y. (2008). Measuring housework participation: The gap between “stylised” questionnaire estimates and diary-based estimates. Social Indicators Research, 86, 381–400.
Lioret, S., Touvier, M., Lafay, L., Volatier, J., & Maire, B. (2008). Dietary and physical activity patterns in French children are related to overweight and socioeconomic status. The Journal of Nutrition, 138, 101–107.
Misson, S., & Sipthorp, M. (2007). Wave 2 weighting and non-response (LSAC technical paper no. 5). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Olds, T., Ridley, K., & Dollman, J. (2006). Screenie boppers and extreme screenies: The place of screen time in time budgets of 10–13 year-old Australian children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 30(2), 137–142.
Reilly, J., Armstrong, J., Dorosty, A., Emmett, P., Ness, A., Rogers, I., et al. (2005). Early life risk factors for obesity in childhood: cohort study. BMJ, 330, 1357–1364.
Robinson, T. N. (1999). Reducing children’s television viewing to prevent obesity: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 282, 1561–1567.
Salmon, J., & Timperio, A. (2005). Trends in children’s physical activity and weight status in high and low socio-economic status areas of Melbourne, Victoria, 1985–2001. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 29(4), 337–342.
Soloff, C., Lawrence, D., & Johnstone, R. (2005). Sample design (LSAC technical paper no. 1) (no. 1832–9918). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Vandewater, E., Shim, M., & Caplovitz, A. G. (2004). Linking obesity and activity level with children’s television and video game use. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 71–85.
Wiecha, J. L., Peterson, K. E., Ludwig, D. S., Kim, J., Sobol, A., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2006). When children eat what they watch: Impact of television viewing on dietary intake in youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 160, 436–442.
This paper uses confidentialised unit record files from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), initiated and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and managed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The findings and views reported are those of the authors and should not be attributed to Department or the Institute. The research was conducted as part of a program of work headed by Dr Lyndall Strazdins with funding from an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP0560982). Dr Nicholson was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Population Health Career Development Award (390136).
About this article
Cite this article
Brown, J.E., Nicholson, J.M., Broom, D.H. et al. Television Viewing by School-Age Children: Associations with Physical Activity, Snack Food Consumption and Unhealthy Weight. Soc Indic Res 101, 221–225 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9656-x
- Child obesity
- Television viewing
- Lifestyle behaviours
- Time use diary