Long screen time and cardiovascular disease in children and adolescents. Social media and video games might be taking their toll.

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Whenever someone have asked me- What makes so difficult to approach and control arterial hypertension and its related health conditions?

My response is loud and clear: The complexity of the tangled skein we must deal with as health care providers.   

The problem is that there is a growing number of risk factors with a very complex interrelation.

Nowadays, another has been summed up to the list: the screen time or in other words, the time spent on social media, video games, watching television, music videos, advertising, etc.

It is not a secret that is increasingly rare to see kids and adolescents playing games outdoor unless these are part of the school program they belong to. Children are no longer playing hide-and-seek outside or reading a good hard-cover book. Instead, they’ve dived into a world of constant digital media through television, mobile devices and video games.

According to the latest statistics about the topic:

On average, children and adolescents spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Although, added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day.

Studies have shown that media can provide information about safe health practices and can foster social connectedness. However, recent evidence raises concerns about media’s effects on aggression, sexual behavior, substance use, disordered eating, and academic difficulties.

Too much screen time can:

Make it hard for your child to sleep at night

Raise your child’s risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression

Raise your child’s risk of gaining too much weight (obesity) as sitting and watching a screen is time that is not spent being physically active

TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices. Most of the time, the foods in ads that are aimed at kids are high in sugar, salt, or fats.

Children eat more when they are watching TV.

Computers can help kids with their schoolwork. But being on the internet spending too much time on Facebook, or watching YouTube videos is considered unhealthy screen time.

What to do?

Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day for children.

How to Decrease Screen Time?

Cutting down to 2 hours a day can be hard for some children but you can help your children by telling them how sedentary activities affect their overall health.

To decrease screen time:

Remove the TV or computer from your child’s bedroom.

DO NOT allow TV watching during meals or homework.

DO NOT let your child eat while watching TV or using the computer.

DO NOT leave the TV on for background noise. Turn on the radio instead, or have no background noise.

Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.

If it is hard not having the TV on, try using a sleep function so it turns off automatically.

Why is the abovementioned important?

Sedentary behaviors including sitting or reclining postures watching TV have been repeatedly linked to increased cardiovascular morbimortality, as well as the development of diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.

In addition, sleep deprivation (sleeping ≤7 h, a common practice among the general population) has been consistently related to higher average weight gain, higher risk of obesity, hypertension and other hormonal and metabolic disturbances.

Even though, this topic is not new for most people can be easy overlooked.

I know that it is really hard to dismantle the complex and somehow additive association we might have to the “media” but it’s worthy.

No doubts, a meaningful utilization of the screen time is another field of action to act on if we want to decrease since early in life the further risks of cardiovascular disease.

Thanks.

Note. This editorial has been written by Dr. Guillermo Alberto Perez Fernandez, author of this blog, and reflects his personal opinion about the topic.

References.

  • Rosique-Esteban N, Díaz-López A, Martínez-González MA, et al. Leisure-time physical activity, sedentary behaviors, sleep, and cardiometabolic risk factors at baseline in the PREDIMED-PLUS intervention trial: A cross-sectional analysis. Song Y, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(3):e0172253. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172253.
  • Strasburger VC, Jordan, AB, Donnerstein E. Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2010;125(4):756-767.
  • Thorp AA, McNaughton SA, Owen N, Dunstan DW. Independent and joint associations of TV viewing time and snack food consumption with the metabolic syndrome and its components; a cross-sectional study in Australian adults. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2013;10:96. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-96.

2 thoughts on “Long screen time and cardiovascular disease in children and adolescents. Social media and video games might be taking their toll.”

  1. It’s a very interesting and important topic to be considered not only by the child and adolescent population, but also by the adult one which screen time has dramatically increased.

    Like

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