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Childhood Obesity: Bad Diet or Bad Technology? An Opinion Piece

Childhood obesity is a challenging topic to talk about because of the nuance needed for the topic. Obesity in children is multifactorial, just as it is with adults. I have the opinion that different factors impact children differently compared to adults. For example, work schedules have a profound impact on adults, but much less so in children. Likewise, it is my opinion that technology plays a greater role than just “bad diet” in childhood obesity; this is opposite to my opinion if we compared the two variables for adults. Obesity is driven through an chronic imbalance of energy (Kansra et al., 2021; Panuganti et al., 2021). This imbalance can be caused through an increase of caloric intake or a decrease of caloric expenditure. I believe that technology has an extremely deleterious effect on children’s obesity rates because it can both increase caloric intake and decrease caloric expenditure. In other words, it burns the candle on both ends. A cross-sectional study published in 2020 (Alotaibi et al.) found evidence that suggested technology use could be used to predict physical activity levels; more technology use correlated with less physical activity. While the authors made a point to mention other factors also influence reported physical activity, it is common assertion that access to technology tends to lead to a decrease in physical activity in children (Kansra et al., 2021). A literature review published in 2020 (Marra et al.) saw strong indication that the use of smartphones while eating will increase caloric intake. This can be attributed to “mindlessness” when eating, which overrides satiety cues; advertisements increasing desire for food; to possibly even contributing to mental health issues, which in turn lead to increased intake. As a professional, I believe it is also worth noting that confronting technology may be a better way to combat childhood obesity rather than confronting diet per se. It is not an either/or scenario, but addressing eating habits in children has a tendency to result in eating disorders and other mental health issues (Kansra et al., 2021). Individual counseling can and should be done, but if we are looking for solutions appropriate for the community level, then policies leading to decreased screen time would likely be better. In conclusion, we have evidence that technology has a negative impact on childhood obesity levels. This occurs both passively and actively. We also have evidence showing that addressing these effects has a positive impact on childhood obesity rates, without the risk of later harm. This is why I believe that technology has a greater impact than nutrition per se. And if I had to choose between the two of them, I would be more supportive of community initiatives targeting technology than children’s eating habits. References Alotaibi, T., Almuhanna, R., Alhassan, J., Alqadhib, E., Mortada, E., & Alwhaibi, R. (2020). The relationship between technology use and physical activity among typically-developing children. Healthcare (8)4m 488. (Links to an external site.) Marra, M. L., Caviglia, C., & Perrella, R. (2020). Using smartphones when eating increases caloric intake in young people: an overview of the literature. Frontiers in Psychology (11), 587886. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.587886 (Links to an external site.) Kansra, A. R., Lakkunarajah, S., & Jay, M. S. (2021). Childhood and adolescent obesity: a review. Frontiers in Pediatrics (8), 581461. doi: 10.3389/fped.2020.581461 (Links to an external site.) Panuganti, K. K., Nguyen, M.., & Kshirsagar, R. K. (2022). Obesity. StatPearls [Internet].

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