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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsScreen time can influence young children's weight in a number of ways. Let's investigate. Firstly, screen time can decrease energy expenditure by reducing physical activity. We've learned that obesity is caused by too much energy in, and too little energy out. Most forms of screen time involve sitting and relaxing. And this means they involve low levels of energy expenditure. Because time spent engaging with electronic media is time that children could otherwise spend playing actively and burning up energy. That is, screen time can displace physical activity. It can contribute to reducing children's energy expenditure. Although active video games may get children moving a little more than traditional video games or TV viewing, children will normally burn up more energy during active play.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsSecondly, screen time can increase energy intake but influencing eating behaviors. Screen time, particularly television viewing, is associated with unhealthy snacking of energy dense foods. Likewise, food advertising predominantly promotes unhealthy foods. And this can also increase the amount that children eat and their energy intake, even if other foods that were not advertised. Whether it be eating a meal such as dinner in front of the television, or even just snacking in front of a screen, these type of unconscious or mindless eating impedes the body's ability to tell us we are feeling full. Our internal satiety cues. The result?

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsNot only do we eat more at the meal, but it can also lead to eating more at subsequent meals not in front of a screen. Finally, screen time can also impact sleep which can influence weight gain. Spending more time engaging with screens can reduce the length of time a child sleeps and can also relate to disrupted sleep patterns. As we will learn in the next module, poor sleep can lead to increased weight gain and obesity development in children. So to recap, screen time can contribute to the development of unhealthy weight in young children by reducing energy expenditure, increasing energy intake, and affecting sleep.

How does screen time influence obesity?

Unhealthy screen habits can lead to increased weight gain and obesity development in children in a number of ways.

Screen time can contribute to the development of unhealthy weight in young children by:

  • reducing energy expenditure,
  • increasing energy intake, and
  • affecting sleep.

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This video is from the free online course:

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

University of Wollongong