Watching television is a common pastime for very young children. High exposure may negatively influence physical and mental health outcomes. Not much is known about how early exposure relates to lifestyle choices in adolescence.
To estimate how toddler televiewing is subsequently associated with lifestyle indicators at adolescence.
Participants are 986 girls and 999 boys from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development birth cohort (Canada). Child self-reports lifestyle habits at age 13 that were linearly regressed on parent-reported televiewing at age 2 while adjusting for potential confounders.
Every 1 h 13 m increase in daily televiewing was prospectively associated with a 8.2% increased risk of unhealthy eating habits (unstandardized b = 0.05; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.07), 10.1% decrease in eating breakfast on weekdays (unstandardized b = −0.06; 95% CI, −0.09 to −0.04), 13.3% increase in BMI (unstandardized b = 0.38; 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.50), 4.7% decrease in student engagement (unstandardized b = −0.07; 95% CI, −0.14 to −0.004), and 5.8% increase in concurrent screen time (unstandardized b = 0.06; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.11). Post hoc simulations of noncompliance with AAP recommendations support their implementation.
Excessive toddlerhood televiewing was prospectively associated with less optimal health and self-invested behavioral dispositions. Lifestyle habits not only affect metabolic risk but may also influence personal success outcomes. These independent relationships, observed more than a decade later, suggest a need for better parental awareness of the way children invest their limited waking hours could affect their long-term life course trajectories.