Health effects on kids who spend excessive amounts of time looking at displays and monitors need to be taken more seriously, a medical expert claimes
By the age of seven, a child born today will have spent an entire year of their life looking at TVs, computers and games consoles. By the age of 18 that same child will have spent three years of their life looking at a monitor or display of some type.
According to a new international study, excessive screen gazing could seriously affect their health.
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The study, published in the medical journal Disease in Childhood, claims that depression, heart disease, strokes and diabetes can all be linked to prolonged screen time.
Its author, psychologist Aric Sigman, expressed concern about the lack of guidance available from UK medical establishments.
Dr Sigman said: "Perhaps because screen time is not a dangerous substance or a visibly risky activity, it has eluded the scrutiny that other health issues attract."
The report argues that screen time should be viewed as a "separate entity to sedentary behaviour". It pointed to evidence revealing that sitting watching TV or playing video games increases blood pressure, while sitting and reading a book decreases it.
Another study found that each extra hour spent watching TV was associated with an extra 1kg of body fat.
"Preschool children who watch more TV are fatter and are less active," the study concluded. Sedentary behaviour, it argued, didn't have the same impact on weight.
It called on medical bodies in the UK and Europe to issue advice to help limit screen time.
"To date, views of the British and European medical establishments on increasingly high levels of child screen time remain conspicuous by their absence."
The UK's Department of Health said there wasn't a large enough body of evidence to issue guidelines on how long children should look at screens or the possible effects of too much exposure.
In a statement, it highlighted the importance of children not remaining inactive for long periods:
"All under-fives should spend as little time as possible being restrained or sitting still except when they're sleeping.
"Once a child can walk, they should be active and moving around for at least 180 minutes – or three hours – a day."
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