This week HBO is airing a four part wake-up call to the nation about the crippling costs of overweight and obesity in America. In 2012, 69% of American adults are overweight or obese (do YOU know the difference) and 1 in 3 American children are overweight. In addition to the obvious causes–not exercising enough, not eating fresh real food, over-stressed, overworked, lack of sleep, and not knowing how to achieve permanent weight loss, one of the less apparent reasons is something called screen time.
Screens. They used to be all about television. Now they come in all shapes and sizes–iPods, iPads, iPhones, Kindle, MobiGo, PlayStation–the list goes on and on. Screen time is the total amount of time spent watching TV; playing video and computer games; web-surfing; working on a computer; or using mobile devices to talk, text, and Facebook. Come on! You know your iPhone goes with you even into the bathroom! Here are some frighting stats for young kids. These numbers increase with adolescents and adults:
Currently, 90% of parents report their children under 2 years watch television, DVDs, or videos. By the time they are 3, almost 1/3 of children have a television in their bedroom.
On average, children younger than 2 years watch televised programs 1 to 2 hours/day.
Children’s daily media consumption soared from 7.29 hours in 1999 to 10.45 hours in 2009.
How is Screen Time Related to Health?
Research in children and adults consistently shows that screen time is directly linked to increased overweight and obesity. More time watching TV means more mindless snacking and more exposure to the Frank-N-Food marketing ambush of fast food and soda commercials. The light from TV and computer screens in the bedroom disturbs sleep and the natural rhythm of metabolic hormones, which are necessary for growth and development. Disrupted or insufficient sleep can increase the risk for overweight and obesity and have other health and safety effects in people of all ages.
Take some time as a family to watch HBO’s The Weight of The Nation and develop a plan of action to reduce screen time, increase activity, and make some long-term changes in the way the family thinks about food. If you have seen this documentary, post your thoughts on it in the comments.