Screen Time Less Than 2 Hours can Prevent Obesity in Kids

Screen Time Less Than 2 Hours can Prevent Obesity in Kids

by Suchitra Chari on Aug 7 2018 3:59 PM
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  • Increased use of screen time to increases sedentary lifestyle in children and teens
  • The increase in screen time is partly due to the availability of a variety of gadgets nowadays that can increase the risk of obesity
  • AHA cautions parents to limit children’s screen time to 1-2 hours a day
A statement released by the American Heart Association (AHA) and published in its journal Circulation states that there is an overall increase in screen time seen among children and teens. The parent should be aware that this will change to sedentary behavior will result in overweight and obesity.
Types of screen-based devices have increased; the category now comprises computers, phones, tablet computers, video games, and TVs to name some.

Sedentary behaviors are activities that take up little physical energy, like sitting, reclining or laying down while awake; sedentary activities contribute to overweight and obesity in children and teens.

Analysis of Screen Time in Children and Teens

All topics covered by the AHA relate the information to cardiovascular disease and stroke. A panel of experts develops scientific statements on the topic after reviewing existing scientific literature and evidence.

In this particular analysis, the writing group found that the literature was based almost entirely on self-reported screen time and that there was not much break down of information of the type of device or the context in which it is used.
  • Children (8 – to 18-year olds) are spending more than 7 hours using screens daily
  • Over the last 20 years, children and adolescents are spending less time watching TV but the net increase in screen time has been made up by the recreational use of other screen-based devices, such as smartphones, tablet computers, and others
"Still, the available evidence is not encouraging: overall screen time seems to be increasing -- if portable devices are allowing for more mobility, this has not reduced overall sedentary time nor risk of obesity," according to Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., a researcher at the INRS-Institut Armand Frappier and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, in Montreal, Canada, and the chair of the writing group.

Increased screen time has its consequences according to Barnett. Obesity is one condition that could be influenced by screen time although the mechanism is not clear.

Screens influence eating behaviors, making children 'tune out' and not noticing what they eat or stopping when they are full. Another possibility is that screens disrupt sleep quality which could contribute to the increase in the risk of obesity.

What Should Parents Do

  • The writing group is reinforcing what the AHA’s long-standing recommendation for children and teens is - to limit recreational screen time down to 1-2 hours daily
  • Parents and children have to take steps together to limit screen time. Parents should be more involved and set a good example for their children with their screen use and by establishing screen time regulations.
  • Parents should be vigilant about their child's screen time, including phones since we know that most youths are already far exceeding these limits.
  • Screen-based devices should not be in bedrooms, as it can affect sleep according to some studies.
  • Parents have to maximize their children’s involvement in other activities like face-to-face interactions and time outdoors
“More research is needed because the patterns of screen-based media use and their long-term effects on children and teens are not yet known. In addition, not much is known about how to help youth be less sedentary and the appeal of screens is making this an even greater challenge. Future research should focus on how to achieve greater balance. Detailed information on the overall impact of today's sedentary pursuits - especially with respect to screen-based devices - is needed”, Barnett said.

  1. New tools, old rules: limit screen-based recreational media at home - (