Turn Off the TV! Your Child’s Binge-Watching Habit May Up Their Diabetes Risk, Says Study

Giving your child an iPad to play or having them watch their favorite show may do more harm than good.

Too-Much-Screen-Time-May-Be-Linked-to-DiabetesShutterstock /Alena Ozerova,Alena Ozerova Alena Ozerova, Shutterstock /Photographee.euAfter a long day at the office, the last thing you want is to come home to a house full of screaming children. And, sometimes it’s easier to turn on their favorite TV show or shove an iPad in their lap for some peace and quiet. But, science says (yet again) that screen time may do more harm than good, according to a new study.

British researchers asked nearly 4,500 children between the ages of nine and 10 how much time they spent watching TV and playing games on the computer or television. On the questionnaire, 37 percent reported spending an hour or less in front of a screen each day, while 18 percent said they indulged in three hours or more daily. They then measured each child’s body fat, insulin resistance, insulin controls blood sugar levels, and monitored some of the their physical activity levels. Kids who stared at a screen for three hours or more a day had a higher BMI, higher levels of insulin resistance, and higher levels of appetite-controlling leptin, all risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Researchers did not follow up to see if any of them actually developed diabetes.

But before you rip that video game controller out of your child’s hands, study authors caution that the screen itself isn’t the problem; it’s the lazy, couch potato behavior that goes hand-in-hand with endless hours of screen time. “Screen time could be capturing something about your behaviors—how much sedentary time you have and how much you break that up, [or] what your dietary habits [are], potentially,” Claire Nightingale, PhD, co-author of the study and medical statistician at St George’s University of London, told The Guardian.

Although it’s difficult for researchers to pinpoint exactly how much screen time will actually lead to development of the disease, the key takeaway is everything in moderation. Ensure your child has a balanced daily regimen that includes morning cartoons, playing in the backyard, and a healthy diet rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.

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Ashley Lewis received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. She was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News. and interned at Seventeen and FOX News before joining Reader’s Digest as an assistant editor. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.