Limit Screen Time

OVERVIEW

Although it may be impossible to imagine, there was a time when there were no screens. Before the invention of the television, people listened to radio. However, by the mid-1900s, many people had televisions in their homes. Generally, those televisions were placed in the living or family room. That was the single screen for the entire family.

Of course, televisions still exist. But, there are also a host of other screens. From computers to phones, each day teens spend hours looking at screens. In fact, large numbers of adults are now expressing concern over the amount of time that teens spend looking at screens.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2012, during the previous 30 days, 98.5 percent of teens ages 12 to 15 years reported watching television and 91.1 percent reported using the computer every day outside of school. Almost one-third of the teens (29.5 percent) watched television for two hours a day. A stunning 6.9 percent watched television for five hours or more per day, and 5.1 percent used a computer for five hours or more per day. Spending more than two hours per day of screen time has been theorized to be associated with a number of problems in teens. These are believed to include elevated blood pressure, elevated serum cholesterol, and excess weight. An expert panel from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of screen time. 1

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Screen Time Appears to Be Associated with Amounts of Body Fat 2

Increased Screen Time Is Associated with Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)

In a study published in 2013 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Boston examined the association between screen use and body mass index in 91 teens between the ages of 13 and 15 years. Over a one-week period of time, the participants completed a weekday and Saturday 24-hour diary in which they recorded the amount of screen time they devoted to television, computers, and video games. In addition, the participants carried handheld computers and responded to four to seven questionnaires per day about their various primary, secondary, and tertiary activities. The researchers found that the participants spent the most time watching television, and television watching was most often designated as where they were directing their primary attention. Moreover, there was an association between paying primary attention to television and a higher BMI. The researchers concluded that their findings “support the notion that attention to TV is a key element of the increased obesity risk associated with TV viewing.” The researchers wondered if the teens were influenced by “TV commercials … [with] preferences for energy-dense, nutritionally questionable foods and/or eating while distracted by TV.” 3

There Appears to Be an Association between Screen Time and Depression and Anxiety 4

Greater Screen Time Is Associated with More Reports of Somatic Symptoms

In a study published in 2014 in Preventive Medicine, researchers from Iceland, Sweden, New York City, and West Virginia investigated the relationship between screen time in 10- to 12-year-old preteens and their reports of somatic symptoms, or symptoms for which no physical cause could be determined. Data were obtained from the population-based 2011 Youth in Iceland school survey, which included 10,829 students. Among the many questions, students were asked about screen time and the incidence of the symptoms of dizziness, tremors, headaches, stomachaches, and multiple symptoms. Interestingly, the reported prevalence of symptoms increased with the amount of hours spent on the screen. Both the males and females who spent more screen time had more symptoms. “This held for all individual screen activities as well as the cumulative measure of daily minutes spent on screen-based media and prevalence of one or more somatic symptoms.” And, the students who spent four hours or more per day on screen-based activities had the highest rates of all forms of somatic symptoms. 5

BARRIERS AND PROBLEMS

Many Teens Are Not Limiting Their Screen Time

In a study published in 2015 in the journal BMC Public Health, researchers from Australia wanted to assess the actual amount of time Australian children and adolescents spend on all types of screens. Their cohort consisted of 1,373 males and 1,247 females between the ages of 8 to 16 years. They were all students at 25 Australian government and nongovernment primary and secondary schools. The researchers found that 45 percent of the 8-year-old students and 80 percent of the 16-year-old students had more than two hours of screen time each day. The most popular screen activities were watching television and videos. The researchers concluded that it may no longer be possible to limit screen time to no more than two hours per day. According to the researchers, “screen based media are central in the everyday lives of children and adolescents.” 6

Screens and Televisions in the Bedroom Reduce Sleep Duration and Delay Bedtimes 7

In a study published in 2015 in Pediatrics, researchers from Berkeley, California; Boston; and Berlin examined the association between different sized screens in the bedroom and sleep duration and restfulness. The cohort consisted of 2,048 fourth and seventh graders who participated in the Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study in 2012 and 2013. The researchers determined that 54 percent of the children slept near a small screen and 75 percent slept in a room with a television. More seventh graders (65 percent) slept with a small screen than fourth graders (46 percent). When compared to the children who slept without a nearby screen, children who slept near a small screen had 20.6 fewer minutes of sleep. In addition, the children who slept near a small screen were more likely to think that they had insufficient rest or sleep. When compared to children who slept in a room without a television, children who slept in a room with a television had 18 fewer minutes of sleep. According to the researchers, their findings “caution against children’s unfettered access to screen-based media in their rooms.” 8

Transitioning to a New School May Reduce Physical Activity and Increase Screen Time 9

NOTES

1. National Center for Health Statistics, www.cdc.gov/nchs.

2. Tracie A. Barnett, Jennifer O’Loughlin, Catherine M. Sabiston et al., “Teens and Screens: The Influence of Screen Time on Adiposity in Adolescents,” American Journal of Epidemiology 172, no. 3 (2010): 255-62.

3. David S. Bickham, Emily A. Blood, Courtney E. Walls et al., “Characteristics of Screen Media Use Associated with Higher BMI in Young Adolescents,” Pediatrics 131, no. 5 (2013): 935-41.

4. Danijela Maras, Martine F. Flament, Marisa Murray et al., “Screen Time Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in Canadian Youth,” Preventive Medicine 73 (2015): 133-38.

5. Richard E. Taehtinen, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, Asgeir R. Hegason, and Alfgeir L. Kristjansson, “Electronic Screen Use and Selected Somatic Symptoms in 10-12 Year Old Children,” Preventive Medicine 67 (2014): 128-33.

6. Stephen Houghton, Simon C. Hunter, Michael Rosenberg et al., “Virtually Impossible: Limiting Australian Children and Adolescents’ Daily Screen Based Media Use,” BMC Public Health 15, no. 5 (2015).

7. Teija Nuutinen, Carola Ray, and Eva Roos, “Do Computer Use, TV Viewing, and the Presence of the Media in the Bedroom Predict School-Aged Children’s Sleep Habits in a Longitudinal Study?” BMC Public Health 13 (2013): 684+.

8. J. Falbe, K. K. Davison, R. L. Franckle et al., “Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in the Sleep Environment,” Pediatrics 135, no. 2 (2015): e367-e375.

9. J. Marks, L. M. Barnett, C. Strugnell, and S. Allender, “Changing from Primary to Secondary School Highlights Opportunities for School Environment Interventions Aiming to Increase Physical Activity and Reduce Sedentary Behaviour: A Longitudinal Cohort Study,” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12 (2015): 59.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

Barnett, Tracie A., Jennifer O’Loughlin, Catherine M. Sabiston et al. “Teens and Screens: The Influence of Screen Time on Adiposity in Adolescents.” American Journal of Epidemiology 172, no. 3 (2010): 255-62.

Bickham, David S., Emily Blood, Courtney E. Walls et al. “Characteristics of Screen Media Use Associated with Higher BMI in Young Adolescents.” Pediatrics 131, no. 5 (2013): 935-41.

Falbe, J., K. K. Davison, R. L. Franckle et al. “Sleep Duration, Restfulness, and Screens in the Sleep Environment.” Pediatrics 135, no. 2 (2015): e367-e375.

Feng, Qi, Qing-le Zhang, Yue Du et al. “Associations of Physical Activity, Screen Time with Depression, Anxiety and Sleep Quality Among Chinese College Freshmen.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 6 (2014): e100914+.

Houghton, Stephen, Simon C. Hunter, Michael Rosenberg et al. “Virtually Impossible: Limiting Australian Children and Adolescents’ Daily Screen Based Media Use.” BMC Public Health 15, no. 5 (2015).

Kremer, Peter, Christina Eishaug, Eva Leslie et al. “Physical Activity, Leisure-Time Screen Use and Depression Among Children and Young Adolescents.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 17, no. 2 (2014): 183-87.

Maras, Danijela, Martine F. Flament, Marisa Murray et al. “Screen Time Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in Canadian Youth.” Preventive Medicine 73 (2015): 133-38.

Marks, J., L. M. Barnett, C. Strugnell, and S. Allender. “Changing from Primary to Secondary School Highlights Opportunities for School Environment Interventions Aiming to Increase Physical Activity and Reduce Sedentary Behaviour: A Longitudinal Cohort Study.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12 (2015): 59.

Melkevik, Ole, Torbjørn Torsheim, Ronald J. Iannotti, and Bente Wold. “Is Spending Time in Screen-Based Sedentary Behaviors Associated with Less Physical Activity: A Cross National Investigation.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 7 (2010): 46+.

Nuutinen, Teija, Carola Ray, and Eva Roos. “Do Computer Use, TV Viewing, and the Presence of the Media in the Bedroom Predict School-Aged Children’s Sleep Habits in a Longitudinal Study?” BMC Public Health 13 (2013): 684+.

Taehtinen, Richard E., Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, Asgeir R. Helgason, and Alfgeir L. Kristjansson. “Electronic Screen Use and Selected Somatic Symptoms in 10-12 Year Old Children.” Preventive Medicine 67 (2014): 128-33.

Web Site

National Center for Health Statistics. www.cdc.gov/nchs .

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.