Teenage 'Screen Time'

By Timothy Hyland

 

For many parents who are raising children in the digital age, few words raise more significant angst than “screen time.” 

Children of all ages are increasingly attached to their phones, computers, TVs, and other digital devices, and already, research has determined that too much screen time is harmful to kids’ well-being.

One recent major study from the National Institutes of Health concluded that children who spend more than seven hours a day in front of screens may suffer from unusual brain development, and that children who reported more than just two hours of screen time a day scored lower on language and thinking tests than those who were comparatively screen-free. Other research has linked screen time to poor diets and even psychological problems.

Now, a new study indicates that screen time may carry yet another risk – poor oral health. 

In research conducted by a team from Poland, more than 1,600 18-year-olds were questioned about their socioeconomic status, digital usage, and health-related behaviors, and then were examined for overall oral health.

 

Kids who spent too much time on their devices were more likely to miss school because of dental pain or other complications.

 

The study group included male and female teens from both rural and urban areas, and the overall results were clear. According to the research team, excessive computer use—as defined in their work by more than three hours per day—was found in 31 percent of the study participants. That subset, notably, was also found to have increased incidents of untreated cavities, gingival bleeding, and general neglect of oral health.

Additionally, the Polish team concluded that excessive computer use was associated with poor dietary habits, and that kids who spent too much time on their devices were more likely to miss school because of dental pain or other complications.

The team cautioned that their study provided only an early window into the correlation between screen time and oral health. They also noted that some of the poor habits examined in their research—including infrequent dental visits and poor dietary choices—may have more to do with socioeconomic status than the use of digital devices.

Regardless, they said the link they uncovered warrants additional study, and should be taken into account as public health officials and other stakeholders continue their work to improve the health of populations and communities.

“In the group studied, excessive computer use by adolescents constituted a risk factor for neglect of oral hygiene, poor dietary choices, and failure to benefit from oral health care,” the team wrote. “Therefore, these aspects should be included in the risk assessment of oral disease and incorporated into educational programs that promote a healthy lifestyle.”

 

Author: Contributing writer Timothy Hyland has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, reporter, and editor. His work has also appeared in Fast Company, Roll Call, Philadelphia Business Journal, and The Washington Times.

Also by Mr. Hyland:

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