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(CNN Spanish) -
(CNN Spanish) -
The problems caused by spending an excessive amount of time in front of the screen are well documented.
However, a recent study identified another potential risk.
In the United States, children ages 9 to 11 who spend more time in front of screens are more likely to develop what is known as binge eating disorder (BED) a year later, according to the study. .
And social media is the main culprit.
The study found that every hour spent on social media was linked to a 62% increased risk of binge eating disorder one year later.
On the other hand, every hour spent watching television or movies was associated with a 39% higher risk.
"Children may be more likely to overeat while distracted in front of screens," Jason Nagata, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco and lead author of the study, said in a news release.
The Most Common Eating Disorder in America
Binge eating disorder is characterized by short, recurring episodes of heavy food consumption, or binge eating, which is often accompanied by a feeling of loss of control.
People with BED often feel distress or guilt after bingeing, the researchers said.
BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting both overweight and medium-weight people.
It most often begins in the late teens or early 20s.
"Binging on television can lead to binge eating behaviors due to excessive consumption and loss of control," Nagata said in the press release.
However, some common screen hobbies can lead to earlier diagnoses.
This excessive consumption, along with social media - which can cause negative body image in children, according to the statement - can create the conditions for bingeing.
While previous research had examined the links between screen time and irrational or binge eating, Dr. Natalie D. Muth, president of the Obesity Section at the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN that The new study looks specifically at binge eating.
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In any case, he explained that it is important to recognize that the study points to an association and not to causality.
"It's not clear that screen time actually causes binges," he said.
"It could be that there is something else - perhaps depression or boredom - that leads to both behaviors."
During the pandemic we spend more time in front of the screens
Covid-19 has not only made the lives of those with eating disorders worse, but it has also increased the time spent in front of the screen by both adults and children.
"The covid-19 pandemic has caused children to spend a lot of time on screens, both for school and for entertainment, given the large void of extracurricular activities," Muth said.
Dr. explained that the American Academy of Pediatrics has seen an increase in obesity and eating disorders since COVID-19 emerged.
This raised concern among experts about the consequences when the pandemic ends.
"When we overcome this pandemic, we are going to have to deal with the consequences for the mental health of children and adolescents for a time," he said.
"Part of that is going to be related to addictive screen time behaviors and eating problems, including binge eating," he added.
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Parents can be proactive
The pandemic has led to prolonged periods in front of screens, something that is often even necessary for online education.
However, parents can follow strategies to keep risks to a minimum.
Muth recommends scheduling meal and snack times as much as possible and limiting distractions.
The specialists said parents should not allow, or should strongly discourage, children from eating while in front of a screen or using a device.
Sleep is also important, Muth said, since behaviors linked to eating more tend to occur late at night.
She recommends not spending time in front of the screen an hour before bedtime.
To do this, parents can ban devices from children's bedrooms, he said.
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It is important that parents set an example of a healthy relationship with food and that they also put these tips into practice.
However, if parents notice worrisome behaviors in their children, Muth said, they can talk openly with them to better understand what is happening and seek help if they are concerned that their children's eating habits have gotten out of control.
While the study was conducted before the Covid-19 outbreak, the findings come at an opportune time.
They also underscore the need for further investigation of the correlations between screen time and adolescent well-being, according to the statement.