A study published Monday suggests a link between screen time and weight gain in American teens. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Pediatric Obesity, found that every extra hour spent on screen was associated with a higher body mass index in the 9-10–After one year.
What’s more, the researchers said, is that weight gain may not only be the result of sedentary behavior, but also that exposure to social media and “unreachable body ideals” may lead to overeating later.
Data were drawn from 11,066 adolescents who were part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. She asked them questions about the time they spent on six different forms of screen time including TV, social media, texting, YouTube, video chats and video games. In a press release published on EurekAlert.org, the team noted that the study took place before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Study shows children’s rates of type 2 diabetes more than double the rates of diabetes during the epidemic
At the start of the study, the researchers said that 33.7% of the children were considered overweight or obese, and after a year the percentage had risen to 35.5%, “a percentage that is expected to rise in late teens and early adulthood.”
“The study was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, but its findings are particularly relevant to the pandemic,” said Jason Nagata, senior study author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “With distance learning, youth sports cancelled, and isolation, children have been exposed to unprecedented levels of screen time.”
Nagata noted that while screen time can provide benefits such as education and socialization, parents should “try to mitigate the risks of excessive screen time” including more sitting time and less physical activity.
“Parents should talk to their children regularly about screen time use and make a plan for family media use,” he said.
Click here for full coverage of the coronavirus
Previous studies of childhood obesity found a high prevalence during the COVID-19 pandemic. One analysis from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which evaluated pediatric appointments from January 2019 to December 2020, found that levels of obesity rose among all age groups, but were most pronounced in patients aged 5-9.