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Key findings on the link between screen use and childhood obesity!

Updated: Aug 18, 2021




At Just For The Children, we are experts who curate research, conduct surveys, analyze new data and understand that in talking to parents and educators, only the most accurate and relevant information should be provided. There are numerous excellent organizations that are devoted to providing the most scientific, forward thinking research on the different effects of screens on children.


We have curated the key findings of the best of the best, to support you in your journey in raising a connected child. We've broken our key findings after over a year of reading research, talking to experts and even conducting mini-surveys of our own. And we have decided to keep working on and updating you on 7 areas which are important.


Key findings on the link between childhood obesity and screens:


The link between obesity and tech use has been clearly identified by many studies. And it's not just obesity, it's also being overweight that can lead to long-term health issues in children.


The following evidence clarifies the cause of the higher chances of obesity linked to the use of screens.


1. The chances of children eating food but particularly junk food while engaging with technology increases greatly, according to multiple studies including “Children, Adolescents, and Screens: What We Know and What We Need to Learn”, in the highly-regarded journal Pediatrics, released on November 1, 2017.


2.) Fast Food and Big Tech are an evil combination when it comes to kids and rising weight gain. Kids are sedentary and are triggered by advertising for high calorie, nutrient poor food choices. Constant exposure to these ads also may have some affect in altering the kind of foods a child is drawn to, and may have a long term effect, well into adulthood.


3) Screens affect a child's sleep more than ever. Research from organizations like Common Sense reveal almost 70 percent of teens sleep with a device in their room and one in three teens check their devices for notifications.


With our work at Just For The Children, we would like to help develop more advice and interventions to help educate more parents and children and advocate for Big Tech and Fast Food to work for children, not against their future health.


We suggest the following immediate interventions.


  1. Talk to your children early and often about the importance of nutrition for long term health. Avoid the use of the word 'diet" or suggest that they lose weight to look "thin."

  2. It is more powerful to use the words, "energetic," "healthy" and "strong."

  3. Limit screen time by agreeing on a daily or weekly limit.

  4. Start early. As children get older, it becomes more difficult to reduce screen activities which include the use of violent video games.

  5. Try to avoid eating while interacting with media. Often, mindless eating results and children end up eating for longer durations, while using screens and media.


Sources

[1] Robinson, T.N., Banda, J.A., Hale, L., Lu, A.S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S.L., & Wartella, E. (2017). Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758K


[2] Robinson, T.N., Banda, J.A., Hale, L., Lu, A.S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S.L., & Wartella, E. (2017). Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758K


[3] Robinson, T.N., Banda, J.A., Hale, L., Lu, A.S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S.L., & Wartella, E. (2017). Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758

Robinson TN, Matheson DM. Environmental strategies for portion control in children. Appetite 2015;88:33-8.


[4] https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/2019-new-normal-parents-teens-screens-and-sleep-united-states.pdf