In “globesity” news, in 2018, an extensive article about the obesity/electronic screen connection was issued from Dubai, stating that in the United Arab Emirates, approximately nine out of every 10 children were spending hours every day interacting with their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets. A survey of at least 1,000 children in that country and Saudi Arabia revealed that they practiced a “balanced usage of mobile devices for both leisure and learning activities.”
At the same time, it was learned that parents viewed obesity as the most pervasive children’s health issue. Close to 70% of the parents realized that there was an obvious link between obesity and ubiquitous screen usage. Asma Ali Zain wrote,
As per the survey, more than half believe that watching videos, playing video games and using electronic devices have educational benefits… Three in five said that children should be taught to use technologies from a young age, and one in three actively encourage their children to use these devices.
Parents believe children are more likely to spend time taking photos, listening to music or browsing the Internet. (Browsing the Internet and listening to music are more popular in the UAE as compared to KSA).
The surveyed parents tended to push back against the social media concept, and believed that two out of three of their children were not signed up with one of those apps. Of course, the concept of keeping kids (or adults either) away from their screens, anywhere at any time, is more aspirational than pragmatic.
In the view of Omnibus Research head Kerry McLaren, it seemed pretty obvious that most parents could point to a definite link between technology and obesity. While it seems that they didn’t feel much could be done to cut down screen time, they were quite conscious, in theory anyway, of the importance of a healthful diet. One of the factors affecting obesity is the area’s severe heat, which precludes spending a lot of time outdoors and makes vigorous exercise unattractive.
A mother who was interviewed admitted to occasionally turning off the WiFi “to force her kids to take a much needed break,” and no doubt other parents resorted to the same trick at times.
Like many other countries, the UAE was adversely affected by the COVID crisis. In 2018 the childhood obesity rate had been 12%, and by 2020 it was over 17%. However, according to pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Asma Deeb, probably about one-third (around 33%) of children in the Abu Dhabi metropolis are overweight.
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Source: “Gadgets causing obesity among kids: Survey,” KhaleejTimes.com, 07/19/18
Source: “Tackling childhood obesity, one family at a time,” ssmc.ae/news, 07/25/22
Image by Damian Zech/CC BY 2.0