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Screen time and body weight

By Dr Mona Choueiry , Family Flavours - Jan 02,2022 - Last updated at Jan 02,2022

By Dr Mona Choueiry
paediatrician

 

Is too much screen time causing weight gain in your household? According to recent studies, watching television or being on a device for more than one and a half hoursdaily is a risk factor for obesity.

 

Link between media and nutrition

 

Television and social media viewers are exposed to advertising for high-calorie foods, so they become more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media. Celebrity endorsement of sugary drinks and nutrient-poor foods through massive campaigns, are highly popular and influence the behaviour of teenagers.

Watching videos of people eating has become popular on social media platforms, which in turn affects the eating behaviour of viewers and their food choices.

Children who have a television in their bedrooms are less likely to engage in active play and are morelikely to have disrupted sleep patterns, which canlead to obesity.

Children get distracted by television or what they are watching on their devices and can eat their wayfrom one show or programme to the other, leading to over-eating.

Screen exposure prevents children from face-to-face communication with friends and parents. Thus, parentsare encouraged to develop screen-free zones aroundthe dining table and to enforce rules against babysitters using television, digital media or apps around kids.

 

Impact of food advertising

Formation of food preferences develops in the firsttwo years of life. Food advertisements directly affect children’s food preferences and unhealthy food adsare more common than ads for healthy ones. Ads marketing foods rich in sugar and fat and large portion sizes and ads using toy tie-ins with major children’s motion pictures target young people. Children exposed to persuasive ads can develop a craving for unhealthyfoods they have never tasted.

Consistent exposure to such ads leads to unhealthy,lifelong food preferences associated with obesity andits consequences. Although food preferences can be unlearned, they are often very difficult to reverse.Reducing sugar and salt intake early on can setpreferences for later on in life.

 

Recommended screen time by age group

 

0 - 18 months: No screen time. babies need real world interactions to learn and grow

18 - 24 months: High-quality programming co-watched with parents, interactive discussions,maximum one hour per day

2 - 5 years: 1 hour or less per day. Media should beplayed outside mealtime

Older than 5 years: Maximum 2 hours per day

 

Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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