Teen screen time

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LEICESTER, United Kingdom — If you think children just sit in front of a computer screen all day, you’re wrong. Most are actually sitting in front of several screens now. Once school ends, a recent study finds two-thirds of children spend their evenings and weekends staring at up to four screens at once. Researchers from the University of Leicester say the worrying trend of “screen stacking” may lead to poor health later on.

Scientists say the habit only adds to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles people are leading. Less physical activity can also lead to the development of diabetes and obesity. Meanwhile, study authors find too much screen time has links to sleep problems as well.

The “worrying” findings come as diabetes rates among young children continue to skyrocket across America. According to the CDC, cases of type 2 diabetes in youths under 20 years-old increased by 4.8 percent every year between 2002 and 2015.

“Intuitively, we believe there must be negative effects on teenagers of using too many screens at the same time. Our data show it isn’t as simple as that,” says Dr. Deirdre Harrington in a university release. “This research was done before the COVID-19 lockdown, where much more of our day is spent in front of a screen. More than ever the effects of this on adolescents need to be known – there are positives too, no doubt.”

“These adolescents wore an accelerometer 24 hours a day for a week allowing us to capture their daily routines and even estimate their sleep,” the researcher, now working at the University of Strathclyde continues. “Uniquely, they also reported how many screens they used at the same time which is not well known.”

Screen stacking is a big problem on the weekends

Researchers studied 800 girls between the ages of 11 and 14 during the study. Results show 59 percent use two or more screens right after school. That number grows to 65 percent in the evenings and 68 percent on weekends. More than 90 percent of adolescents in the study either own their own smartphone or have access to one.

“Sadly, this study reminds us that we are in danger of creating a new generation of sedentary children. Increased sedentary time is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, which is increasing in younger age groups,” says Prof. Melanie Davies, co-director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre. “The number of young people with type 2 diabetes has gone up by 50% in just five years.”

The findings appear in the journal Acta Paediatrica.

SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.

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