Pro Tips on Screen Time

This will wrap up the current discussion of light as an obesity villain by looking at an NPR article by Anya Kamanetz, who questioned a large number of parents for a book called The Art of Screen Time. Included are highlights from four professionals in related fields: a research pediatrician, a sleep researcher, an anti-obesity doctor, and a media and violence researcher. What do they do at home?

For many metabolism-related reasons, humans are better off shielding themselves from light during the hours of sleep. In many cases, among the young, that artificial light pours out of some kind of electronic device that people stare into for hours, and then leave activated even when they are not paying attention to it.

Childhood Obesity News has been looking at the notion that sleeping with artificial light is associated with and/or causative of weight gain. It appears that, as Dr. Yong-Moon Park put it,

[R]educing exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping adds an important tool for preventing weight gain.

Dr. Jenny Radesky is a research pediatrician and the lead author of the guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding children and media. During the school year, her two sons eschew screens on weekdays. There are none at dinner, or after bedtime. On Friday evening, under the “joint media engagement” policy, the parents and children share a movie. On weekends, there can be cartoons and games and, Dr. Radesky specifies, she takes the trouble to point out to her children how the games have a manipulative aspect, trying to make kids buy things during the experience.

Based on a decade of study, sleep researcher Lauren Hale applies strict rules to her two youngsters: “No screens in the hour before bed, no screens in the bedroom and no screens as part of the bedtime routine.” At the tender age of four, one of the children warned his grandmother not to look at TV before bed “because it tells your brain to stay awake.”

Canadian pediatrician Tom Warshawski founded the Childhood Obesity Foundation in his country and is active in the effort to encourage parents to limit screen time for kids. His family household adheres to the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 plan, which means “five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no more than two hours of screens, one hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.” Also, no TV until after homework, and zero video games. At the time, the children were not always happy about the rules. Dr. Warshawski told Kamanetz that, when older and wiser, they thanked him and their mother for holding the line.

Prof. Douglas Gentile, the media and violence expert, was always more concerned about content than time — and time was very limited: one TV hour per day in grade school; two hours per day when older. As for content, he watched any movie first, before the kids could.

About the professionals she interviewed, Anna Kamanetz said,

[I]t was interesting to see how the priorities they focused on in their own research corresponded with the priorities they set at home.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What The Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids,”, 02/06/17
Source: “Sleeping with lights or TV on tied to obesity,”, 06/10/19
Image by Jon/CC BY-SA 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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