More Time on Screens Means More Soda, Sports Drinks for Teens

January 14, 2020

four kids spent too much time on screens
Emmanuel Feranmi

In a new study, researchers are making the claim that teens who spend more time in front of a screen may consume more soda and sports drinks than those who do not.  In the same vein, the study also finds that  the consumption of soda and sports drinks by children and teenagers is on a decline.

This has consequences, of course. The increased drinking of soda and carbonated drinks increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and a whole lot of other health complications.

The study was an ambitious one, and researchers examined the answers of over 32,000 teens to reach a conclusion. The research spanned three years, from 2013 to 2016.

How Does Increased Screen Time Lead To Increased Soda And Related Beverages Intake in children?

The study found that in 2016, about 27% of students obtained about 10% of their calorie intake from the added sugars in sodas or sports drinks. What's more? About twenty-one per cent of students exceeded the recommended threshold for caffeine consumption due to these drinks alone.

But that's not all. Researchers found a correlation between the use of electronic devices such as television, desktops, laptops and even tabs with high consumption of sugar and caffeine.

Of all these gadgets, TV was the one with the biggest impact. For each additional hour of TV per day, students were 32% more likely to exceed the recommended daily sugar intake and 28% more likely to exceed the recommended caffeine intake.

Mobile phones had a similar effect too, with social media use playing an important part in sugar and caffeine intake. Video games also had a similar effect on sugar intake. However, much to the surprise of the researchers, video gaming had no discernible effect on caffeine intake. The surprise was largely because a lot of caffeine marketing campaigns target video gamers. The researchers expected for there to be a significant relationship between video gaming and caffeine intake.

That was not the only cause for surprise. The finding also negated previous studies that have established that video gaming was significantly linked to consuming more energy drinks.

Researchers have put forward a few reasons for this lack of a relationship between video gaming and sports drinks consumption. One of the most prevailing arguments is that video gaming requires one or both hands, and as such would make it difficult for gamers to eat and drink at the same time. However, activities like watching TV, scrolling through social media and browsing require considerable less hand use. Another argument is that children and teens who watch TV a lot are exposed to a lot of ads for energy drinks and sodas which may contribute to high sugar and caffeine intake.

The Relationship Between Distracted Eating And Screen Time In Kids

Importantly, beverages like soda and energy drinks provide easily-consumed calories in large quantities. This can have a big impact on the health of your child.

Researchers have known for a while that there is a relationship between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages like sodas and health problems like diabetes and obesity in teenagers, children and even adults. Some studies have even gone further to show that the consumption of artificially sweetened drinks is associated with the development of chronic diseases like diabetes type 2 and heart diseases.

Sugar isn't the only substance with adverse effects when taken too much. Even caffeine can be dangerous when taken in high quantities. Studies have established that high intake of caffeine can have effects such as insomnia, high blood pressure, chest pain and a lot of other ailments.

Adding screen time to this combination can even have a more potent effect. Screen time provides distraction so your children may eat without noticing that they are in fact eating. When immersed in a TV show or a game, you really aren't paying attention to what you're eating. That is what distracted eating does. Of course, there are certain measures that can be taken. An under desk bike can allow your child to exercise while watching TV or playing games— but that only does so much.

It Isn't All Bad— Bad Eating Habits Among Children Are Generally Experiencing A Decline.

The study wasn't all bad news. There were some reasons to be hopeful. For example, the study found that the average intake of sugar and soft drinks for male and females declined during the period of research.

That's good news, of course. However, the work isn't done. Parents must ensure that their kids adopt healthy habits, and not just healthy eating habits either. Exercising is also important, and your children need to participate in regular physical activity in order to counteract the time they spend behind the screen. Failing that, they can consider investing in a desk bike so that even while your kids are gaming or on their computers, they can still exercise.

An important guideline for making sure that your kids are having healthy lifestyles is the 5-2-1-0 rule. Let's break that rule down.

  • 5 stands for five or more servings of fruits or vegetables per day.
  • 2 stands for two hours of screen time (that is TV and games) or less per day.
  • 1 stands for an hour or more of physical activity per day.
  • 0 stands for zero sweetened beverages per day.

This may look difficult to keep to, as it requires some huge sacrifices and discipline, but if adhered to, it leaves your children less likely to have health complications such as obesity and diabetes which in fact, is the good news.

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