Studies Focus On How Electronic Devices And Sedentary Behaviors Impact Kids
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Young children are often encouraged to pursue activities besides watching TV and playing with electronic devices, and a new report has found that sedentary children can exhibit increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease as young as 6 to 8 years old.
Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the new report is based on the Finland-based Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study (PANIC), which included more than 510 children between the ages of 6 and 8 years old from 2007 to 2009.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland administered a survey of their young participants given by parents and validated activity levels by a monitor that tracked heart rate and accelerometry. The study team also assessed body fat percentage, waist circumference, blood glucose, blood pressure and several other biomarkers. Based on this data the team calculated a cardiometabolic risk score for each child.
The researchers found low levels of exercise – and particularly unstructured exercise – are associated with heightened risk factors for type 2 diabetes and vascular diseases. Also, heavy usage of electronic media was associated with greater levels of risk factors in children. The greatest increases in risk factors were discovered in children with lowest amounts of physical activity and highest amounts of electronic media time.
Heavy use of electronic media boosted risk factors not only in inactive children, but also in children who were physically active. Furthermore, irregular eating habits and an unhealthy diet were associated with higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes and vascular diseases. These nutrition-related factors somewhat explain the connection between heavy use of electronic media and the risk factors, the researchers said.
“The results of our study emphasize increasing total and unstructured (physical activity) and decreasing watching TV and videos and other sedentary behaviors to reduce cardiometabolic risk among children,” the Finnish team wrote in their conclusion.
Another electronic device study, currently being conducted by Imperial College and the University of London, is looking to see if Wi-Fi transmissions from devices are damaging to a child’s brain. The UK team is monitoring the development of 11- to 14-year olds while their device usage is tracked via a specially-designed app.
“Scientific evidence available to date is reassuring and shows no association between exposure to radiofrequency waves from mobile phone use and brain cancer in adults in the short term,” he added. “But the evidence available regarding long term heavy use and children’s use is limited and less clear.”
The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP), which claims to be the largest such study in the world, will examine cognitive functions such as memory and attention that develop as a child progresses through adolescence.
“As mobile phones are a new and widespread technology central to our lives, carrying out the SCAMP study is important in order to provide the evidence base with which to inform policy and through which parents and their children can make informed life choices,” said study investigator Mireille Toledano, an epidemiologist at Imperial College.