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Pediatric obesity is defined as abnormal or excess fat accumulation, representing a health risk. The basis of this problem is energy imbalance due to increased food intake and reduced energy expenditure. However, in addition to the standard causes of obesity, such as genetic predisposition and lack of physical activity, there is one unexpected fact. The time spent using a computer, television, or mobile phone also provokes pediatric obesity. The purpose of this study is to discuss the relationship between screen time and pediatric obesity using scientific data and statistics and also to consider consequences the behavior has on individuals’ health.
Statistics and Target Population
Pediatric obesity is one of the significant health problems, and it affects the health and longevity of children around the world. Any aspect of the environment in which a child was conceived, born and raised, can contribute to overweight and obesity. Obesity is diagnosed at any age, but most often develops in children from birth to three years, in the school period 5-7 years, and adolescence. Rates of pediatric obesity have been growing steadily in developed and developing countries over the past twenty years. According to the World Health Organization, the number of children from 0 to 5 years who are overweight or obese has increased worldwide from 32 million in 1990 to 41 million in 2016 (Styne et al., 2017, p. 713). If this trend continues, the number of overweight infants and young children will increase to 70 million by 2025. Unless action is taken, these people will continue to be obese in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Reasons for Pediatric Obesity
One of the scientifically proven reasons for weight gain among children is the impact of screens while eating. Conducted researchers showed a connection between obesity among ten years old children and the number of hours of watching TV. Also, the obesity of up to 60% of the 4-year incidence was associated with watching TV (Robinson et al., 2017, p. 98). Modern studies say that screen time leads to pediatric obesity by increasing the number of consumed meals, eating harmful and high-calorie food while watching cartoons or broadcasts. It can also include the influence of the media on children’s preferences, requests to buy one or another advertised product, as well as a reduction in the duration of sleep. Long-term research data warns that many hours of watching TV in childhood predict overweight and obesity in adulthood.
Screen Time Consequences
Obesity and overweight are not the only effects of screen time on children. The problem has many negative consequences for the health and development of the body. It entails a decrease in the physical activity of the child, blurred vision, and posture. Moreover, watching TV, computer, or a tablet causes psychological stress, tension, nervousness, and attention deficit (Lowe, 2017). Obese children are more susceptible to various health problems in adulthood, such as cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, disorders of the musculoskeletal system, certain cancers, and disability. Undoubtedly, overweight makes self-esteem low and forms many complexes in children. Overweight poses a significant threat not only to the health and well-being of children but also to the economic and social situation in the country. Thus, governments spend millions of dollars to realize anti-obesity programs (Lowe, 2017). However, all these health problems can be avoided or prevented by following certain rules and addressing health behavior.
Scientific studies have shown the dependence of screens and pediatric obesity, as well as the fact that reducing screen time helps to combat overweight. For example, students of elementary grades in one of the schools in California have been introduced a program that included less time on computers and TV. The experiment showed a good result in several months: children not only began to spend less time with gadgets but also reduced the number of meals in front of the TV (Robinson et al., 2017). Nevertheless, it is worth noting that long-term weight loss is an extremely difficult task for both adults and children. In practice, it is often tough to reduce the time spent by children at the screens of gadgets, not to mention reducing the amount of consumed food (Glanz, n.d.). Also, the intellectual and psychological immaturity of children, as well as receptivity and compliance, create additional difficulties in achieving this goal. Thus, the solution to the problem of pediatric obesity is complex, and the time at the screens of gadgets is only one of the aspects.
To sum up, pediatric obesity is one of the most dangerous and pressing problems of the modern health care system. It is spread all over the world and entails hazardous consequences. One of the causes of overweight among children is plenty of time they spend at the screens of phones, computers, and TV. However, overweight and obesity are largely preventable. According to experts, children need to be returned to the activities. It means a transition from a sedentary lifestyle to active games, and at the same time, a full sleep should be maintained. Supportive policies, favorable environments, schools, and communities are crucial for shaping the right choice of parents and children. They contribute to the choice of healthier foods, regular physical activity, screen time reduction, and, thus, to the prevention of obesity.
Glanz, K. (n.d.) Social and behavioral theories. Web.
Lowe, B. (2017). Assessing the nature and extent of children’s screen time (Master’s thesis, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand). Web.
Robinson, T. N., Banda, J. A., Hale, L., Lu, A. S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S. L., & Wartella, E. (2017). Screen media exposure and obesity in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 140 (Suppl. 2), S97–S101.
Styne, D. M., Arslanian, S. A., Connor, E. L., Farooqi, I. S., Murad, M. H., Silverstein, J. H., & Yanovski, J. A. (2017). Pediatric obesity—Assessment, treatment, and prevention: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 102(3), 709–757.