Children’s waistlines have been expanding in lock step with the amount of time they spend with televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets, according to European doctors.
In the past 25 years, obesity rates have climbed rapidly among European children and teens, according to a consensus statement from the European Academy of Pediatrics and the European Childhood Obesity Group. Roughly one in five kids and teens in Europe are overweight or obese.
Today, 97 percent of European households have a TV in their home, 72 percent have a computer, 68 percent have internet access and 91 percent have mobile phones.
This has spurred a surge in screen time, contributing to inadequate sleep, worse eating habits and less exercise - all of which can make it easy for children to become overweight.
Parents are part of the problem, researchers argue. Even as children’s screen time rises, parents demonstrate little awareness about what their kids do online or how much time they spend with tablets, smartphones and computers, the statement emphasizes.
Food advertising is another problem, because it can convince kids to crave and demand more junk food and make them less likely to eat fruits and vegetables, the statement also notes. Kids also tend to consume a large portion of their daily calories while watching TV, when ads may influence their food choices.
Limit media time each day, no media in the bedroom and ensure the media children are exposed to is high quality. Parents should also have access to their children’s social media sites and monitor their children’s interaction with social media, researchers advised.
Parents of children who are already spending hours a day online and watching various screens may want to cut back media use gradually to make changes more effective.
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