U.K. Watchdog: Overweight Kids Should Watch Less TV

"Fat Kid Rules the World"

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence issues guidelines for parents to reduce the hours spent in front of the TV set, saying Britain faces an "obesity time bomb."

LONDON – The amount of time British children spend watching television and playing computer games should be reduced to help avoid a "kids' obesity time bomb," says a new report from U.K. health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

According to the report, British children should be encouraged to turn off the TV and put down the video game controllers and keep a diary of current habits to help scale back such activities.

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While the BBC director general Tony Hall said Tuesday that the public broadcaster's children's output and its dedicated channels CBeebies and CBBC were highly valued and would continue to get investment, potential viewers are being warned off for health reasons.

The NICE report recommends that "families should be encouraged to eat healthily and be physically active by taking up activities that children enjoy, such as active play and dancing, as well as reducing the amount of time spent playing computer games and watching television."

Children over 12 whose weight is a concern should be encouraged to keep a diary, while parents of younger children "should carefully monitor their behavior in the same way," according to official NICE guidance. It would help parents and children reduce time spent in front of the television, as the digital age sees a proliferation in kids' channels and programming.

The NICE guidelines are aimed at health workers and other professionals who provide "lifestyle weight management services" for children, but identifies families as the key to tackling the problem.

Obesity rates are on the rise across England, with around three in 10 children aged 2 to 15 now classified as either overweight or obese, according to NICE.

Said professor Mike Kelly, director of public health at NICE, "Obesity in children and young people is a serious and growing concern".

Kelly said the health programs suggested will "support parents to identify changes that can be done at home to tackle obesity – and be maintained over the long term."

Added Kelly: "Many of them are things we should all be doing anyway, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducing the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games."