WELLNESS--There is a new book out called iGen that explores the relationship between screen time and happiness in teenagers. The author states that kids born after the year 1995 … kids aged 23 or younger … have grown up with such a damaging amount of screen time that they are less likely to be happy than kids born before them that have logged only a fraction of screen time.
The numbers show that 13% of eighth graders who log 1 hour or more a day on their cell phones have simply reported being unhappy. Some of the naysayers to this book claim that the data is oversimplified and that happy or unhappy are subjective feelings and that if you ask these kids on different days or months they will probably give you different answer each time. Regardless of whether or not this data is 100% accurate or not, there is plenty of other data, evidence, and common sense indicating that too much screen time is simply not healthy.
A study released by the World Health Organization in 2017 found that 65% of girls and 75% of boys under the age of 18 use screens for at lease 2 hours or more on weekdays leading to more sitting than ever before for young people. We already know the damage that inactivity and sitting does to a body. Young people are especially prone to being damaged long term by a sedentary lifestyle because their brains and muscle cells are still learning coordination and strength.
It is no coincidence that the huge spike in childhood obesity correlates with the increase in screen time as well. For children 6 to 19 years old the rate of obesity in today’s screen filled world is close to 20%. This is a staggering 300% increase from the early 70’s. Of course we can’t only blame the additional use of screens but it would be naïve to ignore that there is a correlation. Sitting in front of a screen for hours a day expends much less energy than getting out there and running around and playing.
There are “experts” out there that say it’s a good idea to limit your kids screen time to 2 hours a day. More progressive and active parents will reduce screen time for very young children 6 to 11 to 30 minutes a day and 11 to 18 year olds to 1 hour max a day. Kids are restless, and when parents take that screen away they will find something else to do that is more active. As parents become more aware, more and more families are becoming active with their kids. Family outings to the park or simply going for walks each night after dinner is a great way for parents to support their kids being active. Parents that park it in front of the TV every night all night are teaching their kids by example to not be active.
Families that play together stay together, and besides the other obvious changes in diet that need to be incorporated, getting physically active with your kids is the best way to stave off unwanted pounds and even worse, unwanted long term disease.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR