Too much screen time can lead to obesity says American Heart Association

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Earlier, screen time was just limited to watching television. With technology advancement children are exposed to devices like smart phone, iPad, laptop, and last but not the least television. Apart from screen time now children are also exposed to Alexa, Siri, Echo, Google Assistant, Cortana talking devices.

With slew of devices being available in the market, is it necessary to monitor them?  What happens if they are not monitored? According to a research study published by American Heart Association (AHA)   claims that too much screen time can lead to sedentary behaviour among children, which in turn children are exposed to greater risk of obesity or being overweight.

Tracie Barnett, a researcher at the INRS-Institute Armand Frappier, one of the author of the statement suggests parents to remove television and other devices from bedroom as it will disturb children sleep. The study also mentions the television must be absent during meal-time. “Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear, there are real concerns that screens influence eating behaviors, possibly because children ‘tune out’ and don’t notice when they are full when eating in front of a screen,” said Barnett.

How much screen time is ok?
According to AHA, it is ok for children to get one to two hours of screen time each day. Daily outdoor activities must be encouraged and parents should themselves be a model and enforce a scheduled screen-time and develop healthy screen-based behaviour.

Screen time vs reading
According to a recent research conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation, used MRI scanning to analyse the brain connectivity patterns between the two activities – screen-time and reading. The study showed that the brain connectivity pattern increased while children read books, whereas the connectivity pattern decreased by the duration of exposure to the screen based device. The conclusion is, the study highlighted the importance of reading for brain development and reducing screen time. (source: https://childdevelopmentinfo.com)

What does tech billionaire parents do?
“Melinda Gates’s children don’t have smartphones and only use a computer in the kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours in his office reading books while everyone else is refreshing their homepage. The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, bans electronic devices for the under-11s and teaches the children of eBay, Apple, Uber and Google staff to make go-karts, knit and cook. Mark Zuckerberg wants his daughters to read Dr Seuss and play outside rather than use Messenger Kids. Steve Jobs strictly limited his children’s use of technology at home.
It’s astonishing if you think about it: the more money you make out of the tech industry, the more you appear to shield your family from its effects.”. (Alice Thomson in The Times)

What is the alternative?
With so many reports and study emphasising the importance of limiting the screen time, what is stopping parents to take action?  Well, the parents who invented the technology are strict with their children in terms of using the tech due to its harmful use, how about common man? Just think about how many hours does your child spend time with a smart phone or iPad. According to research, the teen’s risk for depression increases by 27% when they use social media frequently. Time to rethink… As a parent myself, I think it is a conscious effort to cut screen time and dedicate our available precious time with children.

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