Too much screen time for kids can lead to poor health, American Heart Association says

A group of kids look at their smartphones.

The American Heart Association is the latest organization urging parents to limit how much time their kids spend in front of screens.

A scientific statement published by AHA in the medical journal Circulation said screen time from smartphones, tablets and other devices can lead kids to a sedentary lifestyle, increasing the odds they grow up as overweight or obese.

The AHA recommends children get between one to two hours of screen time each day. Although television viewing among children and teens has declined, the use of smartphones and tablets have surged.

“Although the mechanisms linking screen time to obesity are not entirely clear, there are real concerns that screens influence eating behaviors, possibly because children ‘tune out’ and don’t notice when they are full when eating in front of a screen,” said Tracie Barnett, a researcher at the INRS-Institut Armand Frappier and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center in Montreal, in a statement.

Barnett, one of the authors of the statement, also urges parents to keep screens out of kids’ bedrooms, raising fears too much screen time can affect sleep.

Multiple studies have warned about the potential negative affects of too much screen time. Last year, a study from researchers at San Diego State and Florida State universities found nearly half of teens who spent five or more hours in front of screens every day experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness.

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Google and Apple, who make the Android and iOS mobile platforms respectively, plan to introduce new tools to devices to help users cut back on screen time.

For Android 9 Pie, revealed Monday, Google will introduce “digital wellbeing” tools such as screen time limits and a “wind down” option to encourage users to put down their phones before bed.

As for Apple and iOS 12, which launches this fall, iPhones will include a Screen Time feature where users can control and review how they spend time on their mobile device.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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