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Electronic Entertainment and Communication Devices Deprive Kids of Sleep and Make Them Fat?

Lack of sleep is emerging as one of the key drivers of the obesity epidemic (probably right behind lack of time). This is perhaps even more true for kids.

A study by Chahal and colleagues from the University of Alberta School of Public Health, published in Pediatric Obesity, shows that both the availability and night-time use of electronic entertainment and communication devices (EECDs) are strongly associated with short sleep duration and obesity among Canadian children.

The researchers examined data from a representative sample of 3398 grade 5 children in Alberta and used a random effect models to assess the associations of night-time access to and use of EECDs with sleep, diet quality, physical activity, and body weights.

Two out of three kids had access to one or more EECDs in their bedroom, which in turn was associated with shortened sleep duration, excess body weight, poorer diet quality, and lower physical activity levels.

In light of these findings, the authors discuss whether…

“…limiting the availability of EECDs in children’s bedrooms and discouraging their night-time use may be considered as a strategy to promote sleep and reduce childhood obesity.”

Such efforts would be in line with the existing recommendations pertaining to TV and Internet access by the American Academy of Pediatrics and suggest to have these be expanded to restricted availability of video games and smart phones in children’s bedrooms.

If you thought taking away unhealthy foods from your kids was difficult – just try taking away their smart phones, TVs or computers.

I wonder if any of my readers have managed to actually do this and if this has had any positive effect on their kids health.

Edmonton, Alberta

photo credit: soopahgrover via photo pin cc

ResearchBlogging.orgChahal H, Fung C, Kuhle S, & Veugelers PJ (2012). Availability and night-time use of electronic entertainment and communication devices are associated with short sleep duration and obesity among Canadian children. Pediatric obesity PMID: 22962067



  1. It becomes more and more difficult for today’s parent to manage al the demands we impose on ourselves. The reality of socio-economic challenges facing many parents allows for the use of ECDs as an entertainment/childcare device – I have been guilty of letting the kids play video games when I am exhausted and needing a break. Add the challenge of trying to get your kids to bed at a reasonable time, and the recipe is complete when combined with meal preparatation challenges etc. I think my kids are “freaks” due to their 8-830 bedtimes when I hear stories of their peers in elementary school staying up unitl 10-11 on weekdays – many of these peers are exhibiting signs of the onset of weight issues – of course this is not a scientific observation, but I think the average bear can understand when a kid is starting to slip down the slope towards obesity.

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  2. This is an interesting dilema and one I had not thought of in the context of access to technology at all. I am an IT security specialist and have always implemented security things preventing internet access after certain hours for my kids. They are all grown and away from the house now and although I am a very obese person (5.11 and 377 lbs now although I was 450 lbs last year at this time) my kids are doing pretty well. Of the 4 kids I have only 1 seems to have a struggle with weight.

    I remember clearly my parents not wanting me to have a TV in my room as a kid and it was something I did not allow for my kids as well. I did not limit things like cell phones etc which seemed like something they earned by paying the bills on their own so I am not sure what justification (other than the blog details above) I would use to do so.

    Now I have become thoroughly engulfed in “The Apple Way” and even have an iPad mount at my bed that I can use to catch up on facebook and twitter as well as reading at night before I sleep. I think this sort of thing is going to become much more popular over time and really wonder how bad an influence this will be on health. I feel agitated and upset if I cannot have my nightly tech fix. I can only image the feelings of young people who want their technology always on and always nearby. Terrifying!


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  3. My strategy is to not let them get hooked on these devices to start with. Even the schools are starting to issue ipads to classrooms as an “educational” tool, but I have yet to see any studies that reveal an improvement in aptitude or test scores because of use of these devices. Rather, I’m concerned that they will only decrease attention span. They are really just another way to play video games. My husband and I are quite tech-savy, but our kids are not, as they have learned to enjoy books and being outside, which are quickly becoming lost childhood arts. As I type this my 4 year old has been happily entertaining herself with imaginary games for over an hour. I’m sure she’d jump all over it if I handed her my ipad, but then the damage would begin. I don’t see why everyone thinks that kids whose brains are still developing won’t be harmed by dependence on these devices for entertainment.

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  4. This is a real delema what are the expectations of society towards parents and technology today. The technologhy industry cares about one thing and one thing only “sales”. The don’t care about physical or mental health–children shoud have one hour physical play/activity per day. if children are in school for 6 hours per day and sleepiing 10 hours per day like they are suppose to where is the real time for electronic games. To learn social skills you need to be around people in a social setting not sitting around watching TV or on facebook. Then as children become youths they need more time for school work away from school.

    A person who is sleep deprived tired does not think well wether about physical activity proper eating choices or anything else–this is borne out by the bi-polar high being awake too long is not a sfae or healthy activity; could it be that youths who are starting to get overweight from sleep deprivation are facing early signs of a mental illness or are they just making wrong disions incidental to youths.

    I am niether all for or all against technology it does have a place and like everything else when used properly it is in its right time and place–when young people are allowed to make the dission about the right time and place then there is a problem. young people just do not have the ability to set proper priorities. Making youths be responsible for there tech time by making them pay for it is an option but how many parents can hold there foot down that hard when teens whine.

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  5. Years back my daughter was a tv addict. I dared her to go a year without it, with cash as an incentive. I thought my bet was safe but at the end of the year the brat collected. She also learned to read books and magazines, listen to the radio, and to entertain herself. She’s grown now and usually has an EECD close at hand but she can leave it behind too. Balance in everything.

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  6. My husband and I both noted that our daughter’s behavior was adversely affected by too much television time from the time she was a toddler. Both my husband and I grew up in homes which limited television viewing. That caused me to prefer not much television and he to prefer as much as he can watch. I was the parent who noted the effect on our daughter and brought it to his attention. At first, he thought I was somehow punishing her by putting limits on her viewing, but after the first trial and then allowing a return to unlimited access with its noticeable (bad) effects on her behavior, he became a believer! We extended this policy to all of her electronics, as they all seem to have the same bad effect, and require the smart phone to be charged in the living room, not her bedroom. As a result, she can entertain herself by the hour with (real and e)books, her drawing, her piano, her journaling, etc.

    We also, as parents, have been very, very strict with her schedule, inasmuch as we set a fixed bedtime, a fixed dinnertime, and a fixed getting up time. We frequently left events early to return home to meet that schedule. She’s now 16, and puts herself to bed, at 8:00 pm, as she has to arise at 5:15 am for school. I am convinced that adhering strictly to a schedule while she was small has influenced her behavior today in a positive way. Even on weekend nights, by her own choice, she goes to bed at 9:00! Now, of course, as a teen, she sleeps 12-14 hours straight on the weekends, if not stopped.

    Weight issues come down to her from both sides of our families. She has no issues at present, and I have tried to educate her in regard to the link between weight and the food she eats, both type and volume. I also think lack of sleep and volume of stress adds to weight control issues, so I have always set her bedtimes and engaged her in activities she likes. In school time, she does not get as much exercise as I would like, as she only walks, but on her breaks, we swim 3 or 4 hours a week, too.

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  7. This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.
    Appreciate it!

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