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Is Screen Time One of the Main Causes of Childhood Obesity?

Is Screen Time One of the Main Causes of Childhood Obesity?

Many studies have linked excessive screen time to weight gain in children. However, causes of childhood obesity go beyond just watching TV, playing video games and looking at social media on smartphones. Experts have found that the behaviors that go along with these sedentary activities are also to blame for screen-time-related weight gain. So what can you do to help your child maintain a healthy weight?

Weight Gain Culprits

child on smartphone device According to recent studies, some activities that involve screen time, such as playing video games, don’t necessarily have a direct impact on weight. But when kids are looking at screens, they’re often not just watching TV or playing games. They’re also snacking, frequently on high-calorie treats. In addition, they’re seeing ads for unhealthy foods and being exposed to images that can cause them to feel insecure about their own bodies, all of which can lead to overeating. In addition, screen time often results in less physical activity as well as reduced sleep time, both causes of childhood obesity.

A recent study revealed that preteens who spend large amounts of time in front of screens are more prone to weight gain. In particular, each extra hour of screen time, including watching TV, playing video games, texting, and looking at social media or online videos, led to a higher body mass index one year later. What’s more, this weight gain trend is likely to continue into the child’s teens and adulthood. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, find an Altru location near you and make an appointment with one of our pediatric providers.

How to Help Your Child Stay Healthy

By helping your child develop positive eating and exercise habits now, you can set the stage for a healthy lifestyle later in life. Try some of these tips to help your child maintain a healthy weight.

  • Set limits on screen time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends creating a schedule for screen time and limiting the amount of time spent watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet and chatting on social media to no more than two hours per day.
  • Stay active. Kids ages 6–17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. This should include a mix of aerobic activity (anything that gets the heart pumping) as well as strengthening activities (such as climbing or push-ups) throughout the week. Consider sports or fitness video games that require physical activity to help kids stay healthy.
  • Encourage healthy eating. Make sure your child eats plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as low-fat dairy and lean meats. Save the sugary or fatty treats for special occasions.
  • Follow a sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can lead to less physical activity and more overeating. Make sure your child goes to bed at the same time each night and gets the recommended amount of sleep for his or her age.

Find out how Altru’s family medicine and primary care physicians can help your family stay healthy.