Mobile phones, electronic games and TVs in bedrooms – and weight issues

We are bombarded with messages now about the dangers posed by our children’s overuse of electronic devices. Much of this goes on in their bedrooms, and much of it also late at night. The problem, as many parents well know, is that it is very hard to control use of electronic devices in the bedroom and there is a lot of pressure on children from households with good bedtime regimes to respond to peers whose parents are less vigilant. Many parents decide that the battle is just not worth it. Some research at the University of Alberta suggests that their children may not thank them for it later.

The research focussed 10 and 11-year-olds and found that children who have electronic devices in their bedrooms are as much as two and a half times more likely to be overweight than those with none. The main reason for this is thought to be that watching TV, texting and playing addictive electronic games result in a significant reduction in sleep – and that disrupts the hormones that tell us when we are hungry and when we have had enough to eat. There are sex differences – boys respond by feeling more hungry and girls respond by not recognising when they have eaten enough – but the effects are the same. Weight gain and self-esteem issues follow and the child is then even more likely to avoid exercise and spend time on electronic devices in their bedroom.

The Alberta study found that just one hour of extra sleep lowered the chances of being overweight by 28%, and of being obese by 30%.