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Smartphones, Tablets and Weight Gain in Teens

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Teens glued to their tablet, smartphone or computer for hours on end may be more likely to become obese, a new study suggests.

Those who used screen devices for five or more hours daily were twice as likely to drink more sugary beverages and engage in too little physical activity, the researchers found.

As a result, these teens showed a 43 percent increased risk of obesity compared with kids who don't use smartphones or tablets at all. But the study did not prove that high use of these technologies caused obesity risk to rise.

"Parents should be cautious with their kids in terms of how much they're using these devices, especially if you see your child on them several hours a day," said study lead author Erica Kenney. "It is something to keep an eye on and be concerned about, because it could be having an effect on their health."

Kids using a screen device for that amount of time is not that uncommon, Kenney, a research fellow with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and her co-author found.

One of every five U.S. teenagers spends more than five hours a day on smartphones, tablets, computers and video games, the researchers discovered. By comparison, only 8 percent of kids watch more than five hours a day of TV.

"We know kids are shifting their time away from TV and onto these other devices," Kenney said.

The study relied on data drawn from the 2013 and 2015 waves of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a regular youth survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers reviewed responses from almost 25,000 teens in grades 9 through 12.

The results regarding excess TV viewing agreed with earlier findings, the researchers said. Teens who watched five or more hours of TV daily were nearly three times as likely to drink sugary beverages daily and 78 percent more likely to become obese, compared with kids who didn't watch TV.

But those bad habits also appeared to transfer over when kids used smartphones, tablets or computers. Five or more hours of screen device time every day was linked to a doubled risk of drinking sugary beverages and getting too little exercise every day, and a 74 percent increased risk of poor sleep.

The new study was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Source: HealthDay