© Christopher Furlong/ Getty Images
Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

Plenty of people of all ages probably just scored some sort of new screen this holiday season – be it a TV, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, a video game system or whatever crazy newfangled device you were gifted that unnecessarily had a screen attached to it. But for younger gift recipients, that visually engaging present could potentially come with something extra on the side: obesity.

According to a study recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics entitled “United States Adolescents’ Television, Computer, Videogame, Smartphone, and Tablet Use: Associations with Sugary Drinks, Sleep, Physical Activity, and Obesity,” researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that “Using smartphones, tablets, computers, and videogames is associated with several obesity risk factors.” Though the results certainly aren’t shocking, it does serve as a reminder that kids now have plenty of things to be lazy in front of instead of just the TV – and now is probably as good a time of year as any to see a reminder.

According to Food Navigator USA, the study asked 24,800 high school students aged 15 to 18 about the number of hours they spent on screen devices (aka smartphones, tablets, computers and videogames) and watching television. The same group of teens was also asked about their sleep habits, sugary drink consumption and amount of physical activity. Interestingly, though only 8 percent of these respondents said they spent more than five hours a day watching TV, 20 percent said they spent that much time on screen devices. This same group was also more likely to have other unhealthy habits, leading to a 43 percent greater chance of obesity.

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Though the researchers admit they cannot definitively say that screen time directly causes all of these negative health impacts, the results suggest parents (and forward thinking teens) may want to consider spending less time staring at their fancy new gadgets. “This study would suggest that limiting children's and adolescents' engagement with other screen devices may be as important for health as limiting television time,” Dr. Erica Kenney, one of the paper’s lead authors, was quoted as saying. Turns out being a couch potato is much more high tech than it used to be.

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