Smartphone-obsessed teens consume fewer vegetables, ‘mindlessly’ eat more junk food

Study shows that kids who spend more than two hours a day on their phone are more likely to skip breakfast, dine on fast food, and drink soda.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Teenagers who use a smartphone for more than two hours a day are much more likely to gorge on junk food, according to a new study. Researchers add these tech-obsessed teens eat less fruits and vegetables than other adolescents.

Study authors from Korea University discovered that if teenagers spend more than three hours per day on their phones, they’re also significantly more likely to be overweight or obese. The findings reveal that even moderate smartphone usage can have a drastic impact on weight and dieting habits.

According to estimates, the average person in the U.S. spends nearly four hours a day on a smartphone; with rates rising every year. Researchers analyzed a representative sample of over 53,000 Korean adolescents between 12 and 18 years-old during this study.

After accounting for variables such as socioeconomic status, the team discovered the more teens eat fruits and vegetables the less time they spend on their phones. However, the more teenagers stay glued to their screens, the more likely they are to skip breakfast and consume fast food and sodas.

Results show teens spending five or more hours per day on their phones are more likely to report consuming carbonated and noncarbonated sugar-sweetened beverages, fast food, chips, and instant noodles in comparison to those spending less than two hours per day using a smartphone.

Teens using smartphones for schoolwork can be a good thing

The team did note some important exceptions in phone usage. If teens used phones for schoolwork, they tended to have better eating habits than those using their devices for chatting, gaming, entertainment, and browsing social media.

“While earlier studies have shown that TV watching is an important factor that increases the risk of obesity in children and adolescents, little is known about the effects of modern screen time such as smartphone use on diet and obesity,” says assistant professor Hannah Oh in a media release. “Our data suggest that both smartphone usage time and content type may independently influence diet and obesity in adolescents.”

The researcher adds using mobiles constantly can lead to “mindless” eating, inadequate sleep, and wasting time that could go into constructive activities like exercise.

“Adolescents of today are digital natives, who have grown up in close contact with digital devices such as smartphones, and thus are likely to be heavily influenced by them,” Oh concludes. “Efforts should be taken to maximize the positive effects and minimize the negative effects of smartphone use on adolescent health.”

Study authors presented their findings at Nutrition 2021 Live Online.

SWNS reporter Joe Morgan contributed to this report.