TV, video games and sports: The habits of English schoolchildren

Author: Stuart J. Fairclough
Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Type of case study: Research

About the research

Children’s weight and time spent staring into TV and computer screens have been rising concerns over the past few years. The aim of this study is to investigate associations between socio-economic status, weight and gender with time spent in screen-based sedentary behaviours and sport participation among English children. The results suggest that children with relatively lower socio-economic status spent more time sitting in front of screens than they did playing sports.

Weight status was not associated with sedentary behaviours, except in the case of weekend internet use among overweight or obese girls. Further investigation is required to better understand how overweight girls can be encouraged to reduce sitting activities and become more physically active at weekends.

Proportionately more boys than girls watched TV, played video games, and participated in sport, suggesting that boys find time for sedentary behaviours and physical activity. Further exploration in this area is warranted to provide a clearer picture of the association between boys’ and girls’ sedentary and physical activity behaviours.

Findings from this research indicate that efforts should be made to address inequalities in the prevalence of sedentary behaviours and sport participation for all children, regardless of gender, socio-economic status or weight.

Methodology

Participants were children 9-10 years of age who had taken part in the SportsLinx Project, an ongoing series of initiatives to promote physical activity and healthy eating among children in Liverpool, England.

Data relating to health, activity, and nutrition were collected using the SportsLinx ‘Lifestyles’ questionnaire. Field-based assessments of health and skill-related fitness using tests from the EUROFIT test battery were completed during a Fitness Fun Day. Weight status was estimated using international age and sex-specific BMI cut-off points. Children were classified either as being of normal weight or overweight (including obese). Children also completed a lifestyle questionnaire during class time.

Closed questions were used to investigate physical activity and sport participation, sedentary behaviours (for example viewing TV or playing video games), diet and nutrition, and other health-related issues.

Socio-economic status was calculated using the 2007 Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) which were derived from each child’s home postcode. The IMD comprises seven domains of deprivation. Postcodes were uploaded to the GeoConvert application which located IMD scores from the National Statistics Postcode Directory database. IMD scores were then ranked and stratified into quartiles (SES1 = most deprived, SES4 = least deprived). Hierarchical log-linear analysis was conducted to explore associations between variables.

Publications

Fairclough S. J.,  Boddy, L. M., Hackett,, A. F. and Stratton, G. (2009) ‘Associations between children’s socio-economic status, weight status, and sex, with screen-based sedentary behaviours and sport participation’, International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 4, pp. 299-305. doi: 10.3109/17477160902811215

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