Smartphone Obsession Can Make Teens Obese, Sleep-deprived

Mommies, take note! A new study is giving fresh reason to fret about smartphone obsession or overuse of electronic devices by your kids.

If your child is spending hours glued to digital devices such as tablets and smartphones then she or he is more likely to be sleep-deprived and obese, warns the novel study.

The health concerns related to what psychologists have long been calling smartphone obsession are plenty, probably we all know that. It has been demonstrated in several studies in the past that too much time burying nose in smartphone, tablets or similar screen can have a significant negative impact on a child’s physical and mental well-being.

Now a major study carried out by Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the United States has revealed that adolescents who spend more than five hours daily on screen devices have a 43 percent increased chance of becoming obese.

The study also found that children who have smartphone obsession are twice as likely to drink one sugary drink each day and not get a good night’s sleep or involve in physical activity.

Adolescents who use screen-based gadgets for 5 or more hours a day are a whopping 79 percent more likely to get less than eight hours sleep each night.

To find out a link between higher screen time and risk of obesity, sleep deprivation and poor diet, Erica L. Kenney, ScD, MPH, and Steven L. Gortmaker, PhD, both of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, used data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), the school-based surveys from the 2013 and 2015 that included 24,800 adolescents in grades 9-12.

The teenagers were between the ages 14 and 18, and 20 percent of them used the smartphones, tablets, computers, and videogames for 5-plus hours/average school day, while only 8 percent of them spent that much time watching TV.

Investigators found, 5 or more hours of TV watching per day was linked to 78 percent higher odds for obesity and as well as 2.72 greater odds of daily sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption.

Using as much other screen devices every day was associated with daily SSB consumption, inadequate physical activity, and insufficient sleep, showed the data analysis.

“This study would suggest that limiting children’s and adolescents’ engagement with other screen devices may be as important for health as limiting television time,” Kenney said.

Kenney acknowledged that this is “an observational study, so it’s by no means definitive. But our goal was to start to try to estimate how strong any linkages between health and smartphone, tablet, video game, and computer use might be.”

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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