Is technology use contributing to childhood obesity?

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Around the globe, one of the most important public health issues is childhood obesity. Children's obesity prevalence has tripled over the past 40 years, with the low-income, racialized community being most affected, according to Cloutier et al. (2). Hancox, Milne, and Poulton (257) estimate that more than 17% of Americans between the ages of 2 and 19 who are fat. The main causes of childhood obesity, according to Dennison, Erb, and Jenkins (1028), are lifestyle factors, genetics, and a rise in the consumption of high-energy foods. Several researches have demystified the fact that most of the obese children tend to maintain this condition even in their adulthood. Further, Xu et al. (96) explain that prevention of obesity in childhood is easier than treating the same condition in adulthood.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics (594), the increasing rates of obesity among adults is owed to the fact that they are easily exposed to high energy foods, poor and unhealthy eating patterns, reduced physical exercises, deprivation of sleep and sedentary behavior. However, Veerman et al. (365) explain that the home environment plays a significant role in controlling obesity among children. According to Cloutier et al. (584), parents need to take advantage of the time they have with their children at home to ensure that they are provided with the opportunity to practice healthy lifestyles. Deciles, Jago and Fox (2014) explain that there is need for children to be given ample time to play outside, come up with critical lifestyle decisions like the amount of time their children needed to spend watching television, and how to effect healthy changes in the sleeping patterns of these youngsters. A number of studies have identified behaviors like lack of exposure to outdoor games and activities, short sleeping hours and increased acquaintance to sedentary ways of life like watching television as the major causes of obesity among children (Chaput, Brunet and Tremblay 1080). Television and other mainstream and social media are the greatest contributors of interruptions of people’s sleep patterns. Further, sleep duration plays a critical mediation role in controlling a child’s screen time, outdoor play and therefore, the BMI. According to Pyper, Herrington and Manson (568), increased outdoor play with limited screen time yield better and prolonged sleep hours. Subrahmanyan et al. (2000) reveal that improved quality and quantity of sleep plays a significant role in reducing unhealthy eating behaviors which have been widely cited as the key causes of childhood obesity. Parents should limit screen time for young children to prevent obesity.

Is the use of technology making children obese? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (594), childhood obesity is a health issue in which youngsters accumulate excessive amounts of body fats. Weiting (545) explain that about 15% of American children are obese and risk contracting other lifestyle conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular ailments. Adachi et al. (646) regret that this figure will see an upward surge as many children and teenagers are not given ample time to increase their levels of physical exercises. Further, the increasing levels of unhealthy feeding habits could account for the predicted increment. Hancox, Milne and Poulton (258) explain that availability of new technological platforms, and foods which are produced with the aim of increasing revenues rather than making significant contributions to the health statuses of the consumers have led to great increments in the number of overweight children all over the globe. Issues like gaming systems, watching television and use of computers and iPods account for the activities confining children in their rooms and houses at the expense of being involved in events that would make them physically active.

The use of Media and Obesity among Children

Dennison, Erb and Jenkins (1029) explain that spending many hours on the screen is one of the key contributors of the increasing cases of childhood obesity all over the world. According to Xu et al. (97), increased screen time among children leads to the enhancement of the child’s sedentary activity with consequential decrements in physical pursuits, adoption of unhealthy eating behaviors emanating from programs and advertisements touching unhealthy foods, intensification of snacking behaviors as the children continues to watch and disruptions in sleep patterns. Most studies have agreed on the fact that there is a persuasive link between excessive watching of television and obesity (Veerman et al. 366). For instance, the 30 year study conducted by (25) in the United Kingdom revealed that people with higher mean hours of television watching depicted a higher BMI. A study conducted by ()0 revealed that each additional hour of watching television increased the child’s risk of obesity by 7%. Further, the study conducted by Hancox, Milne and Poulton (2004) in Dunedin, New Zealand in which 1,000 participants were examined for a span of 26 years from birth revealed a strong connection between television watching at the ages of 5-15 years and obesity. According to C.loutier et al. (586), increased screen time at the age of 3 increases the chances of a child being obese at the age of 6.

Availability of television sets in children’s bedrooms is identified by Deciles, Jago and fox (664) as one of the factors that exacerbate the effects of screen time on the weight statuses of children. A study conducted by Adachi et al. (2007) on 2343 children aged between 9 and 12 revealed the fact that youngsters faced a significant risk of being overweight in instances where television sets were availed in their bedrooms. According to Chaput, Brunet and Trembley (1082), increased exposure to television programs among children limits their levels of physical activity. Pyper, Herrington and Manson (569) explain that teenagers with TV sets in their rooms spend many hours watching. As a consequence, these children do not get enough time to spend on critical health aspects like physical activities and eat fewer meals with other family members; they are exposed to volumes of sweetened drinks and consume little amounts of vegetables in comparison to their counterparts who lack these gadgets in their bedrooms.

There is a strong relationship between the number of hours spent by children watching television and their abilities to control blood sugar levels. According to Subrahmanyan et al. (125), increased television time increases the risks of contracting type 2 diabetes mellitus. The American Academy of Pediatrics (595) explains that the measures of adiposity among children and teenagers tend to diminish with a decrease in the levels of screen time.

The Mechanisms through which Increased Screen Time Elevates Obesity

How is obesity intensified with increased number of hours spent on media? According to Weiting (2008), obesity is caused by small incremental intake of sedentary activities and caloric foods. Adachi et al. (647) explain that excessive intake of about 50kcal on a daily basis leads to a consequent weight gain of 5lb annually. Further, Hancox, Milne and Poulton (258) explain that people who consume a can of soda every day face the risk of gaining about 15lb yearly. According to Deciles, Jagon and Fox (664), up to 40% of caloric consumption among children is contributed by added sugars, solid fats, and sweet drinks. Xu et al. (97) explain that since obesity results from bodily imbalances between the rates of energy uptake and expenditure, there is no doubt that screen time is a major contributor. Displacement of active interests, unhealthy eating advertisements, and distortion of sleeping habits are considered to be the key mechanisms through which watching television increases the risks of obesity among children as discussed below:

Displacement of active recreations

Availability of television makes children spend more time on these media than any other activity a part from sleeping Pyper, Herrington and Manson (568). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (595), children may spend more than 7 hours on a daily basis watching TV. The study conducted by Adachi et al. (2007) demystified the fact that physical activity among youngsters tends to decrease with increase in the number of hours spent on watching. According to Weiting (547), children and teenagers who are exposed to many hours of watching tend to be sedentary. On the other hand, Dennison, Erb and Jenkins (1031) explain that an increase in the extents of physical activity among children tends to decrease the amount of time spent on television sets, with massive improvements in the nutritional practices upheld by these youngsters.

Effects of televised advertisements in promoting unhealthy eating habits

Weiting (648) explains that children who are exposed to many hours of watching television tend to increase their levels of caloric consumption and intake of higher fat meals. According to Cloutier et al. (584), video and TV watching among children are associated with drinking soda and reduced intake of vegetables and fruits. Weiting (2008) argues that the cues of satiety undergo suppression among children in instances where they are allowed to watch while eating. As a result, these youngsters end up overeating. Pyper, Herrington and Manson (568) posit that some viewers tend to adopt poor eating behaviors as a result of watching advertisements touching on junk foods with high sugar/salt and fat compositions.

According to Xu et al. (97) 30% of American children eat fast foods every day a part from additional intake of 187kcal. Veermin et al. (368) explain that the fast food business is among the most lucrative ventures in the U.S. with more than $100 billion being spent in these eateries on a yearly basis. A study conducted by Deciles, Jagon and Fox (2014) found out that about 80% of parents in the U.S buy fast foods to be consumed by their children. Further, Weiting (547) explains that over 80% of all advertisements availed in children’s programs touched on fast foods and snacks. For every one hour of exposure to television, Adachi et al. (648) explain that American children see more than 10 food advertisements.

According to Pyper, Herrington and Manson (567), the fast food industry spends more than $4.2 billion on advertisements every year. A study conducted by Deciles, Jagon and Fox (2014) on 50,000 advertisements revealed that children accounted for over 90% of the targeted consumer niche.The American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) reveal that children see more than 7,000 junk food advertisements every year. On the contrary, these youngsters are forced to consume less than 160 fitness and good nutrition ads within the same period. According to Adachi et al. (648), availability of new technological platforms like online interactive media has increased the ease at which advertisers reach teenagers and young children.

Hancox, Milne and Poulton (257) explain that advertising is one of the most effective ways of encouraging children and youth to request for more low-nutrition and high fat foods as well as their attempts to influence their towards making purchases. The study conducted by Dennison, Erb and Jenkins (1029) revealed that the children and teenagers who spent more time on television watching food advertisements increased the likelihood of ordering junks compare to their counterparts who lacked such time. Further, Xu et al. (2016) explain that children increase their levels of snack consumption by about 45% in instances where they are exposed to food advertisements while watching programs like cartoons. Similarly, Veerman et al. (368) explain that children who are exposed to online games with advertisements on healthy eating increased the likelihood of consuming healthy meals in comparison to those that were subjected to adverts with junks.

In most of the movies and televised programs, food is depicted unhealthily (Cloutier 584). The American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) analyzed thirty high rating television programs watched by children and found out that on average, this group of individuals are exposed to over 5,000 food references every week. Of these adverts, more than 50% contain junk foods. According to Deciles, Jago and Fox (665), most movies depict sweets as the common foods. Weiting (2008) explains that most Hollywood movies watched by teenagers and children use candy and salty snacks as the prevalent food brands with sugary beverages as the most consumed drinks.

Television and impairment of children’s sleeping patterns

Increased exposure to television and other media creates massive distortions on the sleeping habits and patterns of young children and teenagers (Chaput, Brunet and Trembley 1082). A study conducted by Pyper, Herrington and Manson (2016) revealed that the difficulty of falling asleep tends to increase twofold in instances where children are exposed to television programs for more than three hours in comparison to those who watch similar medal for less than 1 hour on a daily basis. Further, Subranmanyan et al. (123) explain that late bedtimes increase the risks of children and adults to obesity. According to Adachi et al. (648), loss of sleep leads to a consequential increase in the levels of snacking as well as the extents to which an individual consumes unhealthy meals with the aim of maintaining their energy statuses.

Further, Xu et al. (2016) explain that inadequate sleep subjects people to fatigue and therefore, their levels of sedentary behavior. According to Veerman et al. (368), children fall victims of metabolic changes in instances where they are not provided with enough time to sleep. According to the American Pediatric Academy (2011), stress emanating from long periods of exposure to television and media among children plays a crucial role in limiting their sleep hours. For instance, the study conducted by Deciles, Jago and Cox (664) revealed that children aged between 4 and 12 years were most likely to undergo psychological stress after watching television as a result of decreased exercising periods.


There is no doubt that the use of technology among children is the greatest contributor of obesity. Increased exposure to television programs reduces the levels of activity among children and teenagers. While poor feeding habits have been cited in a number of studies as major contributors to childhood obesity, there is enough evidence that over exposure to television increases the probability of junk consumption. The increasing numbers of televised advertisements revealing fast foods and junks have had detrimental effects on the eating behaviors of these youngsters. Further, these media have increased the extents to which children and teenagers have deviated from good nutritional practices. To achieve the levels of success required to minimize the prevalence of obesity calls for proper involvement of parents and the society at large to ensure that the screen time among young children is limited. Further, there is need for setting regulatory measures that limit the number of junk food adverts.

Works Cited

Adachi-Mejia, A. M., et al. "Children with a TV in their bedroom at higher risk for being overweight." International journal of obesity 31.4 (2007): 644-651.

American Academy of Pediatrics. "Policy Statement—Children, Adolescents, Obesity, and the Media. Pediatrics. 2011; 128 (1): 201–208." Pediatrics 128.3 (2011): 594-594.

Chaput, J. P., M. Brunet, and A. Tremblay. "Relationship between short sleeping hours and childhood overweight/obesity: results from the ‘Quebec en Forme’Project." International journal of obesity 30.7 (2006): 1080-1085.

Cloutier, Michelle M., et al. "The Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (ECHO): an ecologically-based intervention delivered by home visitors for newborns and their mothers." BMC public health 15.1 (2015): 584.

Decelis, Andrew, Russell Jago, and Kenneth R. Fox. "Physical activity, screen time and obesity status in a nationally representative sample of Maltese youth with international comparisons." BMC Public Health 14.1 (2014): 664.

Dennison, Barbara A., Tara A. Erb, and Paul L. Jenkins. "Television viewing and television in bedroom associated with overweight risk among low-income preschool children." Pediatrics 109.6 (2002): 1028-1035.

Hancox, Robert J., Barry J. Milne, and Richie Poulton. "Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study." The Lancet 364.9430 (2004): 257-262.

Pyper, Evelyn, Daniel Harrington, and Heather Manson. "The impact of different types of parental support behaviours on child physical activity, healthy eating, and screen time: a cross-sectional study." BMC public health 16.1 (2016): 568.

Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, et al. "The impact of home computer use on children's activities and development." The future of children (2000): 123-144.

Veerman, J. Lennert, et al. "By how much would limiting TV food advertising reduce childhood obesity?." European journal of public health 19.4 (2009): 365-369.

Wieting, J. Michael. "Cause and effect in childhood obesity: solutions for a national epidemic." The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 108.10 (2008): 545-552.

Xu, Huilan, et al. "A 5-year longitudinal analysis of modifiable predictors for outdoor play and screen-time of 2-to 5-year-olds." International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 13.1 (2016): 96.

June 19, 2023

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