Today’s youth are bombarded by far more screens than any generation in history. From tablets to phones to TVs to computers, there’s seemingly no escape from these high-tech diversions.
And while it’s too early to gauge exactly how all of these devices will help shape the lives of kids as they grow older, one long-term study might provide a few important clues.
Taking television to heart
Researchers in New Zealand began following a group of children way back in 1973 and continued monitoring them until they reached their mid-40s. Based on the findings, there appears to be a clear link between increased screen time and potentially serious health risks — like high blood pressure and obesity — later in life.
To be sure, it’s not necessarily that watching TV as a child caused these issues in adulthood, but more likely that the sedentary lifestyle resulting from excessive television viewing planted the seeds for a less healthy life.
That’s what Dr. Bob Hancox, the study’s lead author, concluded, explaining: “If you’re sitting watching TV, you’re not being active and therefore that increases your risk of being overweight and being less fit.”
Analyzing the potential risks
Even though TVs were about the only screens available 50 years ago, there were plenty of adolescents who spent much of their lives parked in front of one.
As adults, those individuals were found to have more trouble efficiently using oxygen during physical activity. Dr. Veronica Johnson of Northwestern Medicine explained that this fact supports the theory that habits honed in the developing years have lifelong consequences and highlights “the need to set up programs, schooling, and support to allow parents to be successful in helping their children be more physically active.”