Child Screen Time Associated With Obesity

Obesity is a growing problem in America, especially among its youth. Lack of exercise in children, often supplanted by time in front of television and computer screens, greatly increases the chance of a child being obese, a new study shows. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had previously made a list of suggestions to pediatricians, parents, and children alike, in order to best manage their physical activity and “screen time.” The study aimed to test these suggestions.

The three AAP suggestions are as follows: “1) boys should take at least 11,000 steps a day; 2) girls should take at least 13,000 steps a day; and 3) children should limit total screen time to two hours a day.”

Led by Dr. Kelly Laurson of Iowa State University, 709 children between 7-12 years old, were studied. By wearing pedometers and noting their typical screen times (which accounts for television and movie watching, video games and computer usage), researchers were able to gauge each child’s typical physical and screen time behavior. The body mass index (BMI), which is a standard tool for determining obesity, was calculated for each child as well.

According to the study, “Almost 20% of the children surveyed were found to be overweight, with less than half meeting both recommendations of the AAP. In addition, Dr. Laurson adds that “Children not meeting the physical activity or exceeding the screen time recommendations were 3-4 times more likely to be overweight than those complying with both recommendations.”

This study, which at least on the surface confirms the AAPs recommendations (it’s possible the same or similar results would have been found if the numbers in the recommendations had been slightly different), it certainly confirms the principle that the recommendations represent: children need to spend less time away from computer and television screens, and more time exercising. If this trend is not adopted, higher levels of obesity, which would mean higher levels of serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes, will be forthcoming.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Laurson, Kelly. Huey, Brigid. Journal of Pediatrics press release. April 2008.