A new study led by the American Heart Association has shown that the more screen time children and teenagers have, the more sedentary their behaviour becomes. Spending the day in front of a computer, smartphone or tablet not only affects their sleep, but also leads to weight gain and increases the risk of cardiovascular illness.
The problem is already well publicised: spending too much time in front of a screen can cause children and teenagers to adopt sedentary habits, thus increasing their risk of excess weight and juvenile obesity. The American Heart Association brought together experts in cardiovascular illnesses and their prevention to analyse the different causes and types of screen that contribute to this phenomenon, report News Medical.
More than 7 hours’ screen time per day
According to the study published in early August in the periodical Circulation, the time we spend watching television has gone down in the last 20 years. However, the time spent in front of other screens (smartphones and tablets) has vastly increased, with a total screen time of nearly seven hours per day for children aged 8 to 18. “The available evidence is not encouraging: overall screen time seems to be increasing,” laments Tracie A. Barnett, the leader of the study.
“If portable devices are allowing for more mobility, this has not reduced overall sedentary time nor risk of obesity.” According to Barnett, the mechanisms that link screen time to obesity are not yet clear. But the way in which screen time influences eating behaviours – namely by disconnecting the children from what they are eating – is problematic. Screen time also deteriorates sleep quality, which also increases the risk of weight gain.
Parents must set limits, say the American Heart Association
“We want to reinforce the American Heart Association's long-standing recommendation for children and teens to get no more than 1-2 hours of recreational screen time daily,” Barnett goes on. “Given that most youth already far exceed these limits, it is especially important for parents to be vigilant about their child's screen time, including phones.”
Parents must help their children by leading by example and setting a limit on screen time for all the family. “Ideally, screen-based devices should not be in bedrooms, because some studies have found that having screen-based devices in the bedroom can affect sleep,” the scientist recommends. “In essence: Sit less; play more."
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